Prakash Amritraj moved a step closer to creating Indian tennis history on Saturday as he reached his maiden ATP Tour final in the $ 385,000 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, USA.
Amritraj, a wildcard entrant, extended his sizzling form to stun Canadian seventh seed Frank Dancevic 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3 in the semifinals of the lone grasscourt Tour event in America.
The 24-year-old becomes the first Indian male player to reach the final of a Tour event in 10 years, since Leander Paes triumphed at the same tournament in 1998.
A victory in the final on Sunday would also see Amritraj emulate his father Vijay, who won the singles title three times (in 1976, '80, '84) besides winning the doubles crown twice ('83 and 86) at this venue.
“It was a difficult match, the conditions were hot. But the quality of tennis that we both played was very high,” Prakash told HT over the phone on Sunday about his semifinal win.
“In the first set there were not many chances. I played a great point in the tiebreak and held on to it. The second set was similar but it went his way. “In the third set, I was tired but told myself to focus on each point. I am glad I came through.”
Prakash will have to be on top of his game for the man standing across the net in the final will be a ripened talent, 35-year-old Fabrice Santoro.
The French second seed tamed home favourite Vince Spadea 7-6 (4), 6-1 to book his berth in the summit clash.
“He (Santoro) is a great player. He won the tournament here last year, and grass is also his favourite surface. But an ATP final is not going to be easy, irrespective of whom you are playing,” Prakash said.
“It is a great moment for us,” said Vijay Amritraj. “Prakash has played remarkably this week. The important thing for me to do now is not to say anything, except that he has to stay relaxed, physically and mentally. He knows what to do.”
The rich history that goes with the tournament has also added to the sense of occasion.
“There is absolutely nothing in my mind. The good thing is that through the week I have not been overwhelmed. I have been just thinking about the next match each day,” said Prakash. “I have faith in my game. Irrespective of what others say, I expect to do well.”
“Prakash plays a much more modern version (of grasscourt tennis) now,” the 54-year-old Vijay said. “It is a like a new car with seat belts and power steering.” The son agreed.
“We have a similar game. We both play aggressively and come up to the net more. We like to play big shots and attack a lot,” said Prakash.
The tournament should do a world of good to his world ranking, which is 305 at the moment. Prakash's best singles ranking has been 220, way back in June 2004, but his career has been hampered by injuries since then.
“The most important thing for him now is to play all year. The last four years, he has not been able to play 10 months,” said Vijay. “He always had the game, it was never a talent question. He has to maintain a level of consistency.”
Meanwhile, Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan's Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi reached the doubles final with a 5-7, 6-4, 11-9 victory over Rik de Voest of South Africa and Australian Ashley Fisher. The fourth seeds will play Mardy Fish and John Isner of the US in the final.