It was an Indo-Pak winner all the way as Harsh Mankad and Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi lifted the
doubles title and also set up an interesting summit clash for the singles crown in the US $10,000 ITF Futures men's tennis tournament in New Delhi [ Images ] on Friday.
The top seeded Mankad and Qureshi bounced back from a first set deficit to beat Asian Games bronze medallists and second seeds Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 for a dream victory at the DLTA Courts.
The winners were richer by US $630 and earned 16 ATP points from the victory while Ghouse and Uppal, who had lost in the final at Dehra Dun last week, had to rest content with US $330 and 12 ATP points.
Earlier in the day, Qureshi and Mankad entered the singles final. The former waltzed his way past Russian Sergei Krotiouk, winning 6-1, 6-2 in exactly an hour, while Mankad had to toil once again for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 win against fifth seed Sunil Kumar Sipaeya.
The doubles win, coming close on the heels of Eid, must have been doubly sweet for Qureshi. The Pakistani, 187 in ATP doubles entry ranking, has little to gain in terms for points since the tournament strength is too low to help improve his ranking but said he relished every bit of the time he had spent on the court.
"I did not want to tire myself last week since I had little time after flying in from Thailand [where he won the singles title], but that is not the case here. I am having good fun," he said about playing with Mankad.
Qureshi had his whole family watching the match from the stands. "They wanted to be with me for Eid," the 23-year-old said.
His mother Nosheen Ihtesham was Pakistan's former number one women's player, and his grandfather Kwaja Iftikar Ahmad was himself a payer of repute in the subcontinent in pre-Independence days.
Ghouse and Uppal went 4-1 up in the first set after pouncing on Mankad's two double-faults in the fourth game and took the set in thirty minutes.
Mankad's serve once again came under pressure in the third game of the second set but the Davis Cupper held on.
Against the run of play came the break of Ghouse's serve but helped by some brilliant interception by Qureshi, the Indo-Pak got the better of Uppal too to wrap up the set in 15 minutes.
Uppal went on to commit a double fault to face break point in the third game in the decider, and promptly handed the opponents the decisive lead with another double fault.
Mankad came good at the net once again while Qureshi was classy in his return of serves. Uppal was solid in his blocking and was well complimented by Ghouse, who was sharp in anticipation.
The difference was minor between the two teams who dished out quality stuff this evening.
Perhaps, some better serving by Uppal and Ghouse might have changed the script.
Another victim of poor serving on the day was Sipaeya. The fifth seed had been in good form this week but the serving that had kept him in good stead so far seemed to suddenly desert him.
Mankad, who had not been in the best of form here, once again lost the first set after being broken in the seventh game. Sipaeya took the set but not before saving three break points in the next game.
From there on, the 20-year-old's first serve percentage came down quickly, and faced two break points in the fourth game of the second set.
After warding off the first, he dropped serve on the next with a double fault. Mankad raced to a 3-0 lead in the decider, and as if to sum the day's proceedings, Sipaeya committed another double fault, his eighth of the match, to hand game and match to his opponent.
Mankad may not have such luxury in the final as Qureshi produced yet another near flawless performance against Krotiouk. A dozen aces for the match should be an indication of the Pakistani's dominance and he is yet to lose a set in the tournament.
The second seed though was practical while assessing his chances against the Indian. "It is going to be difficult. We play doubles together and know each other's game very well."