N Sriram Balaji wins ITF Futures title in Bhopal
Bhopal: A dogged N Sriram Balaji clinched his second ITF Futures singles title of the season and fourth of his career as he carved out a 7-5, 7-5 win over Korean Jung-Woong Na in the hard-fought summit clash of the USD 15,000 tournament, here on Saturday.
Playing his second consecutive final, second seed Balaji relied on his net play game to defuse the challenge of third seed Na, who played extremely well from the baseline.
Na engaged Balaji in long rallies but struggled to finish the points and the Indian took advantage of this.
Balaji charged the net more and more, putting pressure on his opponent and wriggled himself out of difficult situations.
Balaji was trailing in the opening set but he not only made it back on serve but also sealed the set when the Korean was serving to take it to tie-breaker.
Again in second set it was Balaji who lost his serve first but came back well. He broke his rival at 3-4 albeit on a debatable call, making it 4-all.
When Na was serving to stay in the match, Balaji charged on net, unnerved his opponent with his volleys and clinched the issue.
It was Balaji` second title of the season after victory in June over Jeevan Nedunchehzian.
"He was playing very well. It was difficult to beat him had I stayed back. He was running hard, putting more and more balls on the court. You hit hard and he would return harder. But I was sharp," Balaji said after his win.
Balaji, who trains in Germany, said playing some tough tournaments before coming to India, helped him.
"I was mentally strong here. In Germany you have to grind from the first round. It`s not easy there, I played some tough matches, I think that helped me here. I am also making mistakes but I am playing well," Balaji, who now head to Raipur for next week`s competition, added.
Balaji had ended runner-up last week in New Delhi to Yuki Bhambri.