SPORT

Vijay Kannan caves in to Ajay

CHENNAI, DEC. 27. It was not the steady and rock-solid player Vijay Kannan is known to be. Error-prone and appearing jaded the National champion and second seed from Tamil Nadu seemed out of sorts. Nothing went right for him on Thursday as he lost rather tamely to top seed Ajay Ramaswamy from Maharashtra 4-6, 2-6 in the final of the Indian Oil-Servo all-India invitation tennis tournament at the Krishnan Tennis Centre courts here.

Vijay Kannan might not have moved as well as he would have liked to, perhaps because of the close contest which he had against Kamala Kannan in the semifinals. But by saying that it would be denying Ajay credit due to him. His court coverage was excellent. Moreover he was never afraid to unleash his forehands at the slightest chance and volleyed admirably.

Ajay raced to a 3-1 lead breaking Vijay's serve in the first and third games. Vijay restored parity at 3-3 off the only break he had in the first set. Ajay then broke him in the seventh and held his serve in the 10th.

Vijay found it difficult to hold his serves as his trademark backhand chops and reliable forehands deserted him. A net chord in the 10th game helped Vijay save one set point, but Ajay did not give him any further leeway. A huge serve and a fierce forehand helped Ajay pocket the first set. All charged up and bubbling with confidence Ajay broke Vijay's serve in the third game with a backhand passing shot that kissed the line. From then on it was Ajay's show all the way. He finished the match in the eighth game with an ace.

``It was a bad day,'' summed up Vijay. Ajay seemed to have come in with a plan and it worked. ``I have been playing too much passive tennis here, waiting for opportunities. It was not working. Today I decided to play more aggressively,'' said Ajay, who exacted sweet revenge for the loss he suffered in the quarterfinals of the National championship.

After the final, Leander Paes, the highest ranked Indian player showed why he is several notches higher than anybody at home, with a 6-3 win over 16-year-old Tamil Nadu Academy of Tennis Excellence trainee R. Arun Prakash in an exhibition match.

Later talking to presspersons Paes expressed satisfaction with his doubles performance in 2001. ``Every year has had its own intrigues, highs and lows. If you analyse it in a cool headed manner you would see that 2001 has been a good year for us (Mahesh). I am happy the way the year has gone.''

He said he would like to juggle his singles career with the `bread and butter' doubles in the coming months. ``With a packed schedule - Davis Cup (at Lebanon), US Open and the Asian Games,'' he said, ``it is going to be a tough season ahead.''

When asked about the lack of talented young players, Paes picked up Sunil Kumar as a bright contender who could take up a leading role. ``This is the right age for Sunil to break the barrier. He has been playing well winning the Asian junior championship. We all are encouraging him,'' he said.

On India's performance in the Davis Cup tie against US he said, ``considering that nobody gave us a chance to win, it was a good show. Especially the match against Andy Roddick would rank as one of my best matches.''

Mr. A.M. Nanjundan, General Manager, IOC, presided and gave away the prizes.