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Mankad rallies to tame Rajagopalan

Source: PTI
November 25, 2003 18:29 IST
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Arun Prakash Rajagopalan got a taste of life on the senior circuit as he went down 6-4, 1-6, 0-6 to Davis Cupper Harsh Mankad in the first round of the $10,000 ITF Futures men's tennis tournament at the DLTA Complex on Tuesday.

Rajagopalan has had a remarkable run in the junior circuit this year, winning a Grade 2 singles title and two doubles titles, including a Grade A tournament in Osaka, Japan. But the 18-year-old found the transition to the higher level difficult after the humbling loss today.

"I won the first set but after that he [Mankad] raised his game. I did not expect him to play that well... I was not prepared for that," said the 68th ranked ITF junior.

"In the juniors, if you win the first set the opponent soon gives up, but it is not so in the seniors. Harsh is the best Indian player [in the tournament], so I was really committed to do well. But he is too good a player and once you give him a break it is really difficult to stop him after that," addedd Rajagopalan, a wild card entrant.

The top seeded Mankad, who had lost in the second round at Dehradun last week, too had a word of praise for the Chennai teenager.

"I have not been in the best of health, but he really played good serve-and-volley tennis in the first set," the 377th ranked Mankad said.

Holland's third seed Matwe Middelkoop struggled to come to terms with the subcontinent culture even as he won 7-6(7/3), 6-3 against Karan Rastogi.

The 581-ranked youngster, who had suffered a shock defeat to Tushar Liberhan at Dehra Dun, looked doomed yet again as he kept losing his temper, annoyed by the buzz of the school kids. It was a classic case of a European tourist upset by the noisy Indian crowd.

Middelkoop, however, had his inspirational mother among the audience to keep him focused on the job. Good fortune too favoured him as Karan tried to play above himself and went for fancy shots. Once he won the first set tie-breaker, the Dutch regained his composure and closed out the second set and match comfortably.

Karan's doubles partner Somdev Dev Varman advanced after defeating Shivang Mishra, another wild card, 7-5, 6-1.

Second seed and back-to-back title winner Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan had smooth sailing against Kamala Kannan, winning 6-3, 6-4 while fourth seed Vijay Kannan too had an easy 6-2, 6-2 victory over Uzbek qualifier Sarwar Ikramov.

But two other seeded players bowed out.

Kazakhstan's Dias Doskarayev knocked out seventh Mustafa Ghouse 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 while Russia's Sergei Krotiouk packed of the sixth seed veteran Oleg Ogorodov of Uzbekistan 6-4, 7-5.

Punna Vishal, playing as Special Exemption after his run up to the semi-finals at Dehra Dun, notched up yet another a 6-2, 6-4 win against Australian Robert Haybittel.

Also making their exit were the ageing Nitin Kirtane and Vishal Uppal. Kirtane lost 3-6, 6-7(5/7) to Russian Mikhail Ledovskikh while Uppal went down 1-6, 2-6 to Holland's Jasper Smit.

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