SPORT

Isha snaps Sania's stay

Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova plays a double-fisted backhand return in her quarterfinal match against India's Megha Vakharia in the ITF women's circuit tennis event in Mumbai on Thursday.  

MUMBAI Nov. 6. Mumbai's Isha Lakhani stunned the highly-visible Sania Mirza of Hyderabad 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the $ 25,000 International Tennis Federation women's circuit event here on Thursday.

In a contest between touring partners, Isha went in with a plan against the seventh seed armed with a lethal forehand and remained on course over three sets, in spite of a hammering in the second, to gatecrash into the semifinals.

The only Indian to have come this far, Isha has Thailand's unseeded Montinee Tangphong, Czech Republic's fourth seed Gabriela Navratilova and the huge Uzbek eighth seed Akgul Amanmuradova for company.

Isha played down the magnitude of a victory which will make Sania's circuit rivals breathe a little easier, saying: "For me it was like any other match. I have played and toured with Sania many times, so the quarterfinal was like any other game."

The Mumbai girl, bubbling with joy after defying the odds over one hour, 26 minutes at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI), retains respect for a familiar rival. "Sania is a good so I had to play really well," said Isha. "The turning point was when I held serve in the first game of the decider."

The reality is that after consciously keeping the ball away from Sania's forehand, the victor brought all angles and adventurism into play.

Sania, accepting defeat with dignity, stressed on the difficulty of tackling Isha. "She is a different opponent, very different from other left-handers. I tried my best but she did what was supposed to be done," observed the highest ranked Indian in the event, dwelling as an after-thought on the challenges confronting a champion. "Isha had nothing to lose, she was under no pressure."

The singles quarterfinal entry was the Wimbledon junior champion's best career show so far in three $ 25,000 tournaments, bringing down the curtain on a historic 2003.

Isha, as is her wont, attacked from the outset starting with the serve, apart from directing returns to Sania's backhand. She made clever use of drops to pick up points in the first set, slanting the ball across the net whenever her rival was out of position.

The seventh seed got into attack mode in the second, using inside-out forehands and sharp volleys to wrest the initiative.

Both players had trouble controlling the serve and with the noon heat hampering court movements, the Mumbai girl kept her rival under a leash to lead 5-1 at one stage in the decider. Isha committed six double-faults in the match, three more than Sania but enjoyed a better share in the baseline rallies.

Rushmi Chakravarthi went down fighting against fourth seeded Gabriela Navratilova, the only other quarterfinal stretching to three sets.

Megha Vakharia, playing despite the head injury, lost to eighth seed Akgul Amanmuradova.

Quarterfinal results (Indians unless specified):

Singles: Isha Lakhani bt 7-Sania Mirza 6-3, 1-6, 6-2; Montinee Tangphong (Tha) bt 3-Suchanan Viratprasert (Tha) 6-3, 6-2; 4-Gabriela Navratilova (Cze) bt Rushmi Chakravarthi 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; 8-Akgul Amanmuradova (Uzb) bt Megha Vakharia 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.

Doubles: Gabriela N & Hana Sromova (Cze) bt Ankita Bhambri & Sonal Phadke 6-0, 6-1; Sania M & Suchanan V (Tha) bt Chantal Coombs & Karen Paterson (GBR) 6-4, 6-3; Akgul A (Uzb) & Chin-Bee Khoo (Mal) bt Krushmi Chedda & Megha Vakharia 6-2, 6-2; Rushmi C & Sai Jayalakshmy bt Kumiko Iljima & Ryoko Watanabe (Jpn) 6-1, 6-2.