Prakash to meet Widhiyanto in final

Vijay Kannan (left) and Saurav Panja, who beat Mustafa Ghouse and Vishal Uppal in the doubles final of the ITF men's Satellite Masters tennis in New Delhi on Thursday.

Vijay Kannan (left) and Saurav Panja, who beat Mustafa Ghouse and Vishal Uppal in the doubles final of the ITF men's Satellite Masters tennis in New Delhi on Thursday.  

NEW DELHI JUNE 26. For Prakash Amritraj, the motivation to play tennis does not spring from the attraction of the ATP points, nor from the prize money, but in the urge to prove himself a better player.

The urge is more when he is pitted against the Indian opponents, and more so if the man across the net is a talented youngster like Sunil Kumar, who had made a splash by winning the National title when he was 16.

Having won the race in the circuit by a street, there was little to achieve for the 19-year-old Prakash as he was getting one additional ATP point for every win in the Masters event of the ongoing ITF Satellite tennis circuit.

Yet, Prakash shrugged off the early morning lethargy, and played a sharp game, delivering the big serves when it mattered, moving up for sharp volleys, to overpower the 20-year-old Chandigarh lad who had everything to make a fight of it, except the confidence.

Sunil's game was swinging from good to bad quite alarmingly, and it was no surprise that he got broken on the second breakpoint in the fourth game, after he had saved one earlier in the second game.

Prakash himself faced two breakpoints in the seventh game of the first set, but came up with four first serves to wriggle out of that tight corner with considerable poise and assurance. He did serve two of his four doublesfaults in the match in the ninth game, but that could not stop him from serving out the set.

Into the second set, Prakash switched to the higher gears briskly, even as Sunil struggled to keep pace. At 3-3, Prakash pressed the accelerator and broke Sunil in the seventh and ninth games to wind up the contest in an hour and 15 minutes.

Prakash conceded only 12 points in all in his nine service games in the match. He was particularly ruthless in the second set, when he conceded a mere two of those points in his four service games.

Sunil Kumar had two aces to one by Prakash, and 13 winners to 11. He, however, brought the curtains down on himself with a double-fault, and had seven of them in all. He did rally well at times in raising expectations of a keen contest, for many who had made it a point to watch the match, but Sunil was distinctly below par to fight Prakash on even terms this day.

Prakash did make a few uncharacteristic errors, like putting regulation volleys wide, apart from delivering four double-faults, but it was more a matter of not having enough time to get ready for the match, than anything else.

Prakash folded his hands in request to the tournament officials at the end of his semifinal, pleading that he would not be forced to play any more match at 8 a.m. Incidentally, he did not have to make the request, as the final had already been scheduled for 4.30 p.m. on Friday, like the previous week during the third leg.

Like Prima Simpatiaji last week, it will be another Indonesian, the sixth-seeded Febi Widhiyanto who will be challenging the top-seeded Prakash this time. The Indonesian started off on the wrong foot, losing the first set to the big-serving Yew-Ming Si of Malaysia, but recovered his fluent touch to make his first final in the Satellite circuit.

The 23-year-old Widhiyanto won 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, breaking the Malaysian decisively in the 11th game of the decider with two passing shots. He served out the match with an ace.

Widhiyanto had lost in the final of the $10,000 Futures tournament in Jorhat earlier in the season. He said that he would try to make the maximum of the present situation, as he had nothing to lose.

The Indonesian has taken his tally to 40 circuit points, which would convert to 14 ATP points. A win on the morrow would fetch him five more ATP points.

Prakash has 35 ATP points in his kitty so far, including the six bonus points for winning the Satellite, and will stand to gain one more point with a win.

In the doubles final, the fourth-seeded Vijay Kannan and Saurav Panja defeated the Asian Games bronze medallists Mustafa Ghouse and Vishaal Uppal in a second set tiebreak. Saurav dropped serve while serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but kept his cool in the tiebreak.

Vijay and Saurav had won the title in the third leg as Mustafa and Vishaal had given a walkover. The duo took its tally to 60 circuit points, and collected 30 ATP points and six more as bonus for winning the circuit. Mustafa and Vishaal took their collection to 44 circuit points, and gathered 27 ATP points.

The Amritraj cousins, Prakash and Stephen Amritraj had lost in the first round of the Masters, but finished second in the circuit with 51 points, and pocketed 28 ATP points and three more as bonus.

Vijay and Saurav won $393.75 for their effort in the Masters, while Mustafa and Vishaal had to be content with $206.25.

The results: Singles (semifinals): Prakash Amritraj bt Sunil Kumar 6-3, 6-3; Febi Widhiyanto (Ina) bt Yew-Ming Si (Mas) 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Doubles (final): Vijay Kannan and Saurav Panja bt Mustafa Ghouse and Vishaal Uppal 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

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