The last fortnight has been very successful for Dempo Goodwill Ambassador Natasha Palha. After tasting success in Mumbai and at the Central Excise event in Kolkata, Natasha lived up to her expectations and lifted the prestigious National grasscourt doubles tennis title at the Calcutta South Club, Saturday, but went down to Gujarat’s Ankita Raina 1-6,2-6 in the women’s singles final.
The singles final was played earlier during the day where Natasha was pitted against India No 3 Ankita as it seemed that the Gujarat lass outclassed her opponent on the basis of sheer experience. However, Natasha’s effort in the singles final cannot be discounted for the simple reason that she played her hearts out to counter her rival. And, in the end Ankita lifted the singles crown.
Later in the evening, Natasha partnered with local girl Treta Bhattacharya and took on the might of Rushmi Chakravarthi and Ankita Raina to win the doubles final, thus making it three back to back titles for Natasha in just over the last week.
Rushmi, who was in the Olympics squad along side Indian icon Saina Mirza, seemed a force by herself when she took the first set 6-4 with Ankita by her side.
The loss in the opening set did not seem to deter the Natasha-Treta pair as they rallied hard to make a fine comeback and clinch the second set 6-1 and level the match at 1 set all. With the deadlock prevailing, the match was then decided on the basis of a super tie-breaker, which the Natasha-Treta duo won 10-8 and with it inscribed their name on the doubles trophy.
With a finalist and a doubles trophy in her kitty, Natasha was a delighted girl. Asked to express her joy of winning the doubles crown at the South Club, supposed to be the Wimbledon of the East, the Goan lass said: “I am very happy that I managed to win the doubles title after going down in the singles final. It is a matter of great pride that I won the National grasscourt trophy while partnering Treta.”
Treta, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying her partner’s company as together it has been their fourth final. “We gel well together and I am happy to partner Natasha and would do so even in the future,” continued Treta when asked for her comments.
Asked to reflect back on the doubles final, the winning duo said: “Though we lost the first set we never lost hope. We always knew there would be an opportunity to make a comeback and break the opponent’s serve. We did just that and kept our cool. Once the match was level at 1-1, we went for the kill in the super tie-breaker.”
Natasha will next play in the 10,000$ tournament in Hyderabad.
The trophies were presented by Member of Parliament, Mr Derek O’Brien, who graced the finals as the chief guest. Making a comment, Mr O’Brien, who has in the past been a quizmaster and is a renowned TV personality, said: “Love for sport is vital to encourage the sport and I am glad to have witnessed a grand finale of the National grasscourt championship here at the South Club in Kolkata, which is referred to as the Wimbledon of the East.”
The South Club has a rich history attached to it and is aptly described as the Mecca of tennis in India where the first National Championships were held way back in 1946 and it was a great moment that a tennis player from Goa made her self count at a historic venue.
Meanwhile, promising Chennai youngster Ramkumar Ramanathan emerged the new champion in the men’s singles category.
The sixth-seeded 18-year-old Ramanathan thrashed local lad Saurav Sukul 6-2, 6-1 in a completely one-sided affair.
Sukul, who had given a flicker of hope of becoming the first national champion from Bengal in 13 years, could not stand up to Ramanathan.
Sukul looked more and more tired as the match progressed and Ramanathan wrapped up the issue without much fuss.
Ramanathan had emerged the Junior National champion in 2009 and 2010. He currently trains at the Sanchez Casal Academy in Spain.
Results (all finals): Men’s Singles: Ramkumar Ramanathan (TN) b Saurav Sukul (WB) 6-2, 6-1. Women’s Singles: Ankita Raina (Guj) b Natasha Palha (Goa) 6-1,6-2; Doubles: Treta Bhattacharya (WB)/ Natasha Palha bt Rushmi Chakravarthi (TN)/ Raina 4-6, 6-1, 10-8. [NT]