Somdev Devvarman was at his fluent best on way to the men's singles final while Sania Mirza took time to come on top in the women's singles semi-final of the tennis competition at the Commonwealth Games here Friday.
Somdev's run in men's doubles, however, was halted when he and Rohan Bopanna went down to third-seeded Englishmen Ross Hutchins and Ken Skupski 6-3, 3-6, 4-6 in the semi-finals.
There was bigger disappointment and disbelief a little later when top seeds Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were knocked out by fourth-seeded Australian pair Peter Luczak and Paul Hanley 6-2, 6-2 in the semi-finals.
In the singles. Somdev eased into the final with a 6-3, 6-1 win over third-seeded Australian Mattt Ebden, but it was hard work for second-seeded Sania as she had to fight from a set and a break down to snatch a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over sixth-seeded Australian Olivia Rogowska.
Unlike the sluggish start in his previous two outings, World No. 97 Somdev took charge of the match straightaway. He served so well that he shed his characteristic baseline play, often charged the net to finish 70 percent the points he won.
Somdev also cleverly kept the ball in play to wear the Australian down. Bent invariably angled his shots out or hit wide even when the Indian was out of position.
In the second set, in particular, Somdev extracted errors from the Australian at will by making him run around the back court.
The Indian broke Ebden only to drop his serve in the fourth game. He, however, recovered in time to reel off the last three games to pocket the first set.
There was no stopping the top-seeded Somdev, who sprinted through the second set in just 34 minute once he effected the initial break in the fourth game.
The break came as Ebden put a high backhand volley out, followed it by hitting a simple backhand cross-court out and finally netted a backhand to drop the serve at love. Once he got the break, Somdev simply toyed with him and it was all over for Ebden in an hour.
"It feels great to be in the final. The significance of this win is huge. It's guaranteed a medal for the country, today is definitely a big day for me," said Somdev, who plays Australia’s Greg Jones in the final.
"I have never played Greg before. But he serves really well and I will have to do my best."
Sania,too, was elated with the victory.
"Somdev and I reaching the singles finals is a great thing for India. Few years ago no one would have imagined that. Hopefully, we will be able to win gold."
In contrast, Sania had a woeful start to her semi-final. Her serve deserted her in the first set and she was unable to hold her serve even once. The only game that came her way was when Rogowska dropped her serve in the second game.
The Austrian, who had beaten India's Rushmi Charkravarthi in the quarter-finals Thursday night, played solid groundstrokes and sent Sania scurrying from one end to the other end. All that because Sania's trademark forehand winners were not easily forthcoming. She, however, did enough in the second set and third sets to run out winner.
Watched by her parents and husband and former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik, Sania put up a resolute display in the second set. After being down 1-3 she broke back Rogowska in the fourth and the sixth games to make it a set all.
In the decider Sania, backed by a raucous crowd, notched up a 4-1 lead. The following three games saw neither player holding their serve before Sania held her's in the 10th to serve out the set and the match after nearly two hour's struggle.
"There are days when you are not at your best. She (Rogowska) was playing absolutely great, but taking no credit away from her, I also allowed her to play like that. Hopefully, I will not play like this tomorrow," Sania said.