Saturday, November 10, 2007

Harsh Mankad returns, Ashutosh Singh proves his mettle

Pakistan may be in the headlines for the wrong reasons but India's National Champion Ashutosh Singh made sure it wasn't all bad news by reaching the final of the ITF Pakistan F3 Futures in Lahore.

Singh lost a tight match 3-6,6-3,7-6(6) to top-seeded Czech Adam Vejmelka in the final but the 25-year-old Indian shouldn't be too disappointed by his performance against a player ranked 240 places above him on the ATP list.

Partnering Vivek Shokeen, Singh had earlier grabbed the doubles title beating Vejmelka and his Romanian partner Bogdan-Victor Leonte 6-1,6-4.

The 575-ranked Singh also leads the Indian contingent for a bilateral tennis series against Pakistan starting in Lahore on Tuesday.

Doubles was the key for India in women's tennis this week with both Sunitha Rao and Prerana Appineni reaching the doubles semifinals at separate ITF events. Second seeds Rao and American Jill Craybas bowed out to an American pair at ITF Pittsburgh while Appineni and American Beatrice Capra lost a thrilling super-tiebreaker in the ITF Lima (Peru) semifinals.

But the big news for India is the return of Harsh Mankad after a year-long break from the tennis court thanks to knee injuries. Currently ranked 1456, Mankad is playing the qualifiers at the ATP Challenger in Champaign, USA.

Mankad turned 28 on Saturday and the Mumbai resident knows only too well how hard it will be for him to crack the ATP Top 200. His career best singles ranking of 222 was a milestone achieved two years ago.

Also playing next week is Indian number one Rohan Bopanna. The 261-ranked Bopanna has the unenviable challenge of playing 75-ranked German Benjamin Becker in the first round of the ATP Challenger in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine.

At least doubles specialist Leander Paes has better odds despite a spate of opening round defeats recently. Fourth seeds Paes and Czech partner Martin Damm will fancy their chances at the Shanghai Masters Cup when they take on defending champions Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi on Sunday.

In women's tennis, India's number two Sunitha Rao will try her luck at the ITF $50,000 La Quinta, US tournament while Tara Iyer will lead a phalanx of fellow Indians at the $25,000 ITF Pune tournament. Both events kick off on Monday.
Can Paes and Damm win the Tennis Masters Cup?
Yes - these defeats will make them hungry for victory
No - they have lost their magic
Depends on luck free polls

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With Somdev Devvarman (January 13, 2009 and October 4, 2007)

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