Isha proves too good for Sheethal

Isha Lakhani serves during her quarterfinal match against Sheethal Goutham in the third leg of the ITF women's circuit in New Delhi on Thursday. Isha thrashed Sheethal in straight sets.

Isha Lakhani serves during her quarterfinal match against Sheethal Goutham in the third leg of the ITF women's circuit in New Delhi on Thursday. Isha thrashed Sheethal in straight sets.  

NEW DELHI MAY 22. The dusty atmosphere made the synthetic surface look like a clay court. However, the quality players could not be stopped from marching into the semifinals of the third leg in the $ 5,000 ITF women's tennis circuit at the DLTA Complex here on Thursday.

Only Sonal Phadke was stretched to three sets by the talented lefthander from Chennai, Kamini Murugaboopathy, while the top seed Liza Pereira, second-seeded Isha Lakhani and fifth seed Archana Venkataraman cruised home, dropping just four games each.

It was not as if those who lost lacked quality. Sheethal Goutham, Ankita Bhambri and Yamini Thukkaiandi have it in them to pull it off on their day but were up against players with better agility, craft and patience.

Isha was quite impressive with her attacking style today. The diminutive lefthander from Mumbai, who had won the first leg at Indore, was quite sharp as she sliced through Sheethal's defence like a rapier.

Hitting with punch and precision, Isha got off to a flier, winning the first five games by breaking Sheethal thrice. The latter recovered some lost ground by breaking back Isha in the sixth game but Isha had no problems in winding up the first set in the next game. The set lasted a mere 21 minutes.

Unable to hit with her usual rhythm or accuracy, Sheethal tried her best to stretch Isha and was partly successful as she recovered from an initial break to level at 3-3. However, Isha was too good to be stretched for long. With keen anticipation and a sharp game, Isha saw through the tactics of Sheethal and reeled off the last three games in double quick time.

Isha will meet fellow trainee from Mumbai, Sonal Phadke, who has tuned herself for the tough battles ahead with three-setters against Shruti Dhawan and Kamini today.

More than her game, it was Sonal's confidence that proved tough to tackle for Kamini who had battled her way past four matchpoints on the same court on Wednesday. The Chennai girl did well to take a set off Sonal with a flurry of service breaks and was a break up at 4-3 in the decider. She, however, lost her way as Sonal stepped up her game in the climax.

Stroking with accuracy, Sonal broke back to 4-4 and held serve comfortably to go ahead 5-4. Kamini stumbled and lost the 10th game at love and bowed out with a doublefault.

The indifferent game in the climax apart, Kamini gave a good account of herself. No doubt, she will be a dangerous customer in the Masters to be held next week.

Patience pays

Archana's patience prevailed against the impatient Ankita. The latter tried to hit her way past trouble but only managed to dig deeper into it. Ankita erred too much while going for winners as there was no pace in Archana's shots.

For one who serves well, Ankita could hold her serve only once in two sets though she broke Archana once each in the two sets. It is not easy for someone with Ankita's temperament to play the waiting game, be content to hit the ball back and keep it in play longer.

Ankita has to understand that if she aspires to win, she has to implement a game plan rather than be rigid with her outlook.

Ankita's below par effort was so disheartening that her mother could not bear to watch the match for long. If she cuts down on her unforced errors — especially while volleying — and diligently plays each point, Ankita should be able to beat many players given her sound game. That is easier said than done.

Archana will be challenged by top-seeded Liza, who did not have to break into a sweat against Yamini. Like Isha and Archana, Liza was also stingy in conceding games to her opponent.

In fact, Liza did not have to play anywhere near her best as Yamini made mistakes too frequently.

Yet, for someone who is returning to the circuit after losing many months to a wrist injury, Yamini did well to make the quarterfinals, an effort that fetched her $ 175.

Liza had beaten Archana last week in straight sets en route to the title and it should be an interesting contest on the morrow. The other semifinal between Sonal and Isha looks equally exciting.

In the doubles semifinals, Ankita Bhambri and Sonal Phadke continued with their fine work and beat the fourth-seeded Jung-Yoon Shin of Korea and Archana Venkataraman in straight sets. The duo will challenge the champions of the firs leg, Sheethal Goutham and Shruti Dhawan in the final.

The singles semifinals to be played one after the other from 8 a.m. and the doubles final from 4.30 p.m. will be shown `live' by Doordarshan.

The results:

Singles (quarterfinals): Liza Pereira bt Yamini Thukkaiandi 6-3, 6-1; Archana Venkataraman bt Ankita Bhambri 6-2, 6-2; Sonal Phadke bt Kamini Murugaboopathy 6-1, 3-6, 6-4; Isha Lakhani bt Sheethal Goutham 6-1, 6-3.

Doubels (semifinals): Ankita Bhambri and Sonal Phadke bt Jung-Yoon Shin (Kor) and Archana Venkataraman 6-2, 6-3; Shruti Dhawan and Sheethal Goutham bt Iciri Rai and Preeti Rao 6-4, 6-4.

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