Second seed Yuki Bhambri survived a fright from qualifier Saketh Myneni to set up a men's singles final showdown with top seed Vishnu Vardhan, who swept aside Mohit Mayur Prakash, in the the Fenesta National Tennis Championships at the DLTA complex on Friday.
Yuki sprinted through the first set, but Myneni mixing up his pace and showing good courtcraft evened out things and was even a break up in the decider before the Delhi boy came back to clinch a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 victory.
In the women's singles, comeback girl and former champion Isha Lakhani stamped her class on 17 year-old Sowjanya Bavisetti, winning 6-4, 6-2. Lakhani squares off against 15-year-old Rutuja Bhosale, who continued to impress with her gritty play, as she showed the veteran Rushmi Chakravarthi the door with a 6-4, 6-4 vitory.
Myneni, who is eager to get some national points after playing four years on the US college circuit, impressed with his solid serve and crisp volleys in the second set. The lanky 23-year-old from Hyderabad defended well every time Yuki tried to pass him. Myneni broke Yuki early in the second set and soon it was a set-all.
Myneni jumped to a 3-1 lead in the decider before dropping his serve in the sixth game, Yuki sealing it with a searing forehand winner.
The 19-year-old Delhiite's serve, which was wobbly in the second set, started finding the mark and Myneni began to feel the heat. Yuki, held his serve at love in the eleventh and broke Myneni's immediately to take the set and the match.
Yuki admitted it was a tough match and said he was glad that he came through it before the final.
"It was a tough match. I started really well, but went off the gas in the second set which allowed him to comeback. He played really well in the second set, he was volleying really well, and put up a good defence at net, leaving me me stranded," Yuki said.
"I started serving well after dropping it early in the decider and that gave me free points and confidence. It is nice to come through such a match."
About his clash with Vishn, Yuki said he has to be at his best.
"We have played quite a bit against each other, but he has grown and matured as a player. So it is not going to be easy. Saketh has a similiar game like Vishnu, both rely on their hard serve. It will definitely be a tough match," Yuki said.
Myneni, who trains with CV Nagaraj in Hyderabad, said he is happy with his showing and looking forward to playing in the ITF futures.
"Playing at University of Alabama, helped me a lot. They work a lot on your fitness and training and that has helped. I think I played really well today, but my first serve in the second and the third sets let me down," Myneni said.
In the women's semifinal, Pune girl Rutuja was impressive with her fluent strokes and aggressive play as she overpowered former champion and third seeded Rushmi in a nearly two hour clash.
The Asian junior champion Rutuja, who took out top seed Prerna Bhambri, in the very first round, said she never expected to reach the final.
"I am really happy to be in the final, I was not expecting to be here," said Rutuja, who trains under former Davis Cupper Sandeep Kirtane at Pune's Deccan Gymkhana.
The two-time champion, Isha, who is returning to competitive fold after two years and is now running her own coaching programme, said being a coach helped her game.
"I never expected to reach the final. It feels good to be back and to compete so well. I have been concentrating on my game without worrying too much about any strategy," said 26-year-old.
"Being a coach has helped to some extent. Let's see what happens tomorrow."