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Sipaeya, Mankad to clash in semis

November 27, 2003 18:46 IST

Indian representation in the final of the ITF Futures men's tennis tournament was assured when Sunil Kumar Sipaeya set up a semi-final date with Harsh Mankad at the US $10,000 tournament in Delhi on Thursday.

Davis Cupper and top seed Mankad overcame Holland's Jasper Smit 6-3, 7-6(7/3) while fifth seed Sipaeya edged out national hard courts champion Vinod Sridhar 7-5, 6-3 in the quarter-finals at the DLTA Complex.

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The other semi-final will be a match-up between Pakistan's second seed Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi and qualifier Sergei Krotiouk of Russia.

Should the former come through, it will be what fans had hoped for, an Indo-Pak final.

Qureshi made short work of Melvyn Op de Heije of the Netherlands, winning 6-3, 6-1 in 56 minutes.

Krotiouk needed three hours to get the better of Punna Vishal, winning 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(7/5).

The tournament is also likely to see an Indo-Pak winner, with top seeds Mankad and Qureshi booking a final berth against the second seeded home team of Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse in the doubles.

Mankad and Qureshi overwhelmed the teenaged pair Arun Prakash Rajagopalan and Divij Sharan 6-1, 6-2 whereas the Asian Games bronze medallists got a walk over from Dutch duo of Matwe Middelkoop and Op der Heije, as Middlekoop was down with a viral fever.

After a relatively easy first set, Mankad saw Smit strike a fine rhythm in the second. The Dutch player was soon beginning to outpace Mankad and move him around the court.

Smit got his break in the ninth game but the 25-year-old Indian pulled back immediately to level the scores 5-5. The Indian was still feeling shaky against the fluent hitting of his opponent but managed to push the set into the tiebreaker.

A questionable call by the chair umpire gave Mankad a 4-1 lead to which the top seed held on to take the set and match.

For Sipaeya, it's been a happy week so far. The former Asian junior champion has had a terrible season this year, the first half of which was lost due to a shoulder injury.

But the 20-year-old has been having a fine run in recent months, winning three doubles titles with Ajay Ramaswami, including the one at Dehra Dun last week.

"I have not had enough match practice since I had not been playing much. I was just fighting to get back to the previous levels," said Sipaeya.

His strokemaking was at its best today and his serve gave little chance for Sridhar to get a look in once he surrendered the first game with a series of doubles faults.

Sridhar was rusty to begin with but even when he started matching Sipaeya for a few tight rallies, he seemed to miss a gear. A poor service game by the latter gave him a break against the run of play in the second set but his confidence levels were so down that he could not hold on to it and conceded the advantage immediately.

For Arun Prakash and Divij, the tournament was significant. The duo had registered some memorable wins in the junior circuit, most notable the Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan last month.

But this is the last event of the year, and with the former turning 18 soon, the pair wanted to finish with flourish.

Unfortunately, top seeds Mankad and Qureshi proved too good for them, and Arun Prakash's serving shoulder too began to trouble him midway through the match.

Mankad also held good at the net, unlike the last match when he was targetted by another teenage team of Karan Rastogi and Somdev Dev Varman.

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