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Rediff.com  » Sports » Rare feat by Mankad-Ashutosh

Rare feat by Mankad-Ashutosh

May 24, 2008 18:43 IST

While India's ace doubles players are engaged in an all-too-familiar row, and the media is clamouring over it, two of their compatriots accomplished a rare feat that conveniently went under the radar.

Harsh Mankad and Ashutosh Singh beat the top three seeds en route to victory at the US $ 50,000 ATP Challenger in New Delhi to become the first Indian team in almost two years to win a Challenger title.

Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj were the last Indian pair to achieve the feat in July, 2006, in Aptos, California.

Mankad-Singh, playing only their second tournament together, beat top seeds Brendan Evans of the US and India's Mustafa Ghouse 7-5, 6-3 in the final at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association courts on Friday.

"We had some good wins -- beating the number one, two, three seeds in the tournament," Mankad said on Saturday. "Of course, the conditions also helped."

"We were playing for the first time together. In the first week we lost in a tight match against Rajeev Ram and Prakash (Amritraj). But this time we beat some of the players who are ranked in the top 100 in doubles."

While Mankad won a Challenger event before -- with the US's Jason Marshall, in Donetsk, Ukraine, in 2003 -- it was the first victory at this level for Singh.

"It was nice; we played together for the first time and it worked out well," said Singh, a winner of eight ITF Futures doubles titles.

"Harsh is a very accommodating partner. It helps that he has played at this level for the last two-three years and knows what the competition is like. If I was playing against a dominating player it would've been difficult, but Harsh is helpful on court."

Apart from doing well in the doubles, the 25-year-old Singh had some good performances in singles, upsetting eighth seed Alexandre Kudrravtsev of Russia 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 in the opening round in the first week, to boost his confidence.

"I thought that match in particular the conditions were working in my favour. I practice at the DLTA courts and it was very hot.

"It does give you a lot of confidence when you do well against guys ranked in the top-200. He's a player who had a match point against (Carlos) Moya. When you consider the experience they have at that level and you end up winning a close match against them you feel good about yourself."

Singh is one of the few Indian youngsters who emphasise on the doubles, and admitted that given their prompt success, he and Mankad have signed up for doubles in coming weeks. Calling their schedule "doubles-centric", Singh informed that they will be playing five weeks in Europe next month.

"We are playing two weeks on grass and then on artificial grass," added Mankad. "I had seen him play for some time and looking at our game styles I thought we could combine well. His strengths are the serve and volley while I have a good returning game.

"He is a natural doubles player, and he realises that. That's why he is very keen on doubles too. It was nice to get through a tough draw to win the tournament; it's a good start for us."

Deepti Patwardhan