Punam's Reddy's dream run continues

MUMBAI Sept. 26. Punam Reddy is proving to be a dangerous customer for rivals with reputations to defend in the International Tennis Federation's junior tournament.

Three seeded players crossed her path in the girls' singles competition, all ended up at the door, the latest casualty being No. 3 Vandana Murali in the semifinals on Friday.

The unseeded Hyderabad girl won 7-5, 6-3 to confirm a final berth opposite the tenacious teenager Preethi Subramaniam, another surprise packet from Coimbatore who sent out top seed Kartiki Bhat.

The battle between these two unlikely finalists will be an engrossing contest, both growing in stature on court as the tournament moves to the climax.

Punam's last three victories have come against seeded players Parul Goswami, Madura Ranganathan before hitting Vandana out of the firing line.

A lanky 16-year-old with the reach to fashion winners and an aptitude to hang in there, she took charge straightway, leading 3-1 up two breaks in the second set before her rival got a look-in.

With the long list of conquests fuelling her confidence, Punam did not flinch when the third seed clawed back to 2-3, notching two more breaks on the way to a final place.

She is not an unknown quantity; a doubles title with Sania Mirza in the AITA National Series in Chennai is recent proof of her ability to handle big matches.

The second semifinal saw the error-prone Kartiki Bhat unable to counter a retrieving machine in young Preethi. The top seed and favourite led 5-4 in the first set before going down 5-7, came back from 1-5 in the second to reach 4-5, had nine match-points only to end up on the wrong side of a 7-5, 6-4 scoreline.

Tushar Liberhan delivered when needed to whip up a straight set victory over Saurav Kohli in the boys semifinals.

He takes on wildcard Purav Raja, another unknown a week ago and now just one match away from fame in just his second week on the ITF circuit.

The top seed has not been stretched so far, and so will be wary of an ambush in the decider.

Tushar and Preethi set themselves up for a double in the event sponsored and organised by the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association, the former teaming up with Navdeep Singh to win the boys doubles, edging out Rupesh Roy and N. Jeevan in three sets.

The girls' doubles crown went to the Preethi - Sandri Gangotri pair who cruised to victory in straight sets. The winning duo picked up 30 ITF junior points and the losing finalists 20 points.

The results (Indians unless specified):

Boys singles (semifinals): Purav Raja bt 7-Jeevan Nedunchezi 6-3, 6-2; 1-Tushar Liberhan bt 6-Saurav Kohli 6-3, 6-3.

Girls singles (semifinals): Preethi Subramaniam bt 1-Kartiki Bhat 7-5, 6-4; Punam Reddy bt 3-Vandana Murali 7-5, 6-3.

Boys doubles (final): Tushar Liberhan & Navdeep Singh bt Rupesh Roy & N. Jeevan

5-7, 6-2, 6-4.

Girls doubles (final): Preethi Subramaniam & Sandri Gangotri bt Sonali Sanap & N. Sharma 6-0, 6-1.

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