Thassha shuts out Sonal

PUNE Nov. 13. Thassha Vitayaviroj, one of the army of Thailand tennis juniors stalking the pro-circuit in Asia and beyond, prised open the door of opportunity in the NECC-ITF women's tennis championships.

The 17-year-old law student from Bangkok showed admirable endurance and concentration to close out Indian challenger Sonal Phadke 6-0, 6-4 in 57 minutes for a quiet entry into the women's singles semifinals on Thursday.

She is the only unseeded player to survive so far in the main draw of the $10,000 event sponsored by the National Egg Co-ordination Committee, the other three quarterfinals winners at the Deccan Gymkhana on a day of lopsided matches being second seed Akgul Amanmuradova, third seed Karen Paterson and sixth seed Megha Vakharia.

Thassha, sponsored by Singha Beer from the age of eight, was expected to show after-effects of a difficult two hour-plus baseline pre-quarterfinal duel against Bulgarian Maria Penkova earlier, but instead appeared to have become sharper after the exhausting experience. "We are used to playing long matches back home," said the Thai teenager, whose training is split into two sessions (mornings for tennis and evenings devoted to gym work). Talking in halting English, the muscular Thasshya showed no hesitancy on the court, displaying forceful play on the big points to tighten the screws on Sonal.

After pocketing the first six games in a row to wrap up the first set 6-0, she got a jolt at the beginning of the second set, trailed 1-3 at one stage before launching a counter-offensive.

She teamed up with countrywoman Montinee Tangphong under floodlights to win a marathon doubles semifinal 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 against the Indian pair of Sonal and Ankita Bhambri. The 17-year-old is the only player with a chance of featuring in two finals.

Geeta Manohar won the second doubles semifinal 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in Archana Venkataraman's company against fellow Indians Isha Lakhani & Liza Pereira.The singles semfinals line-up is Thassya Vitayaviroj vs 6-Megha Vakharia; 2-Akgul Amanmuradova vs 3-Karen Paterson.

The results (Indians unless specified):

Singles (quarterfinals): Thassha Vitayaviroj (Thai) bt Sonal Phadke 6-0, 6-4; 6-Megha Vakharia bt Ankita Bhambri 7-5, 7-6 (7-4); 3-Karen Paterson (Gbr) bt Chantal Coombs (Gbr) 7-6 (7-4), 6-3; 2-Akgul Amanmuradova (Uzbk) bt 7-Isha Lakhani 6-0, 6-1.

Doubles (semifinals): Geeta Manohar/Archana Venkataraman bt Isha Lakhani/Liza Pereira 5-7, 6-3, 6-4; Montinee Tangphong/Thassha Vitayaviroj (Thai) bt Sonal Phadke/Ankita Bhambri 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.

Quarterfinals: Geeta/Archana w/o 1-Rushmi Chakravarthi/Sai Jayalakshmy; Isha/Liza bt Sheetal Goutham/Radhika Tulpule 6-2, 6-4; Ankita/Sonal bt Anupama Rajur/Chirashanti Rajur 6-2, 6-0; Tangphong/Thassha (Tha) w/o 2-Akgul (Uzb)/Chin-Bee K (Mal).