Ajay, Harsh to vie for honours

CHENNAI DEC. 25. Defending champion Ajay Ramaswami will clash with Davis Cupper Harsh Mankad for the title in the Indian Oil Servo all-India invitation tennis tournament.

In the semifinals at the Krishnan Tennis Centre, here, on Wednesday, Ajay, from Maharashtra, beat State-mate Nitin Kirtane, the National Games gold medallist, 6-2, 6-4 while Harsh slugged out a 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-3 win over Tamil Nadu southpaw Vinod Sridhar.

After wining the opening set with ease, Ajay led 3-0 in the second when Nitin staged a fightback, winning three games on the trot.

Having played a good part of their tennis together, each seems to know the other's thought process pretty well. Nitin, generally not the one to go down without a fight, however, failed to sustain the momentum this time around.

Maharashtra's Harsh, the adventurous kind, mixed his play pretty well. It worked to his advantage, with Vinod playing the waiting game. The encounter was a long drawn one, lasting for over two and a half hours.

It turned out to be a day of missed opportunities for Vinod, the current National hardcourt champion. Serving 6-5 for the first set, the southpaw surprisingly failed to capitalise on the advantage.

He missed it the second time when serving for the second set at 5-3, but broke through to win at 6-4.

Level at three-all in the final set, game seven was tension-filled and long. But Harsh's enterprise and experience saw him through.