New Delhi: N Sriram Balaji played a solid game throughout to become the new national champion and earn a wild card for the 2016 Delhi Open as he beat Vishnu Vardhan in the final of the Fenesta Open, the national hard court tennis championship, here on Saturday.
Playing the national championship after six years, top seeded Balaji defeated defending champion and second seed Vardhan 7-5 6-3 in the final at R K Khanna Tennis stadium.
It was double delight for Balaji as he had won the men's doubles title, too, with partner V M Ranjeet.
Prerna Bhambri though defended her women's singles title with an overwhelming 6-0 6-1 win over Samitha Sai Chamarthi and earned a wild card for USD 25,000 ITF women event in Delhi Open.
B R Nikshep won the Boys (Under-18) title with a hard-fought 6-3 2-6 7-5 win over Aryan Goveas. Niskhep got wild card for the Delhi Open Qualifiers.
Zeel Desai won the Girls singles title, defeating Satwika Sama 3-6 6-3 7-5 in the final.
Both Balaji and Vardhan served extremely well in the first set but a break of serve in the 12th for the latter changed the complexion of the match.
Everything that Balaji did today clicked. His drop shot, lob, service - everything fell into place. He himself stayed mostly at the baseline and did not allow Vardhan to come on to net much. Even if Vardhan tried, Balaji came up with such returns, on both flanks, that Vardhan did not risk points by again rushing to net for volleys.
Vardhan was chasing all the time as the first went on to serve till the 11th game. Serving to stretch it to tie-breaker, Vardhan came to net but Balaji played a ferocious and unreachable backhand on left of Vardhan. A double fault put Vardhan down 0-30.
The defending champion again approached the net but found the same result - an unreachable return from Balaji. This put Vardhan down by a set point but served well to save it. A double fault by Vardhan handed Balaji his second set point, which was converted when his opponent made an error.
It was a completely one-sided affair after that as Balaji grew in confidence, racing to a 4-1 lead to easily close the match in his favour. He broke Vishnu in the third game before being broken. He got the break back immediately and served out the match in the ninth game.
"I expected a tough match today. Vishnu can serve really well which he did. But in second set his percentage came down and I took advantage of that," Balaji said after his win.
"I am happy. I never had national championship trophy in my list of trophies. I have started to play more Challengers.
The level of ITF Futures is not high in India," he added.
Vardhan said he played a bad 12th game in the first set, which cost him dear.
"I played a loose game with a couple of double faults and that set the tone. In the second set he was more confident, surely the best in the draw," Vardhan said adding that he felt pressure while serving in that game since it was no easy being a chaser in game like this.
"It was not easy as scoreline might suggest. There were very little margins and and I was actually winning more points on his serve," said Vardhan, who owes his coming back to fitness to his trainer Mohammed Latif.