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India enjoy clean sweep in tennis

India swept all the seven gold medals on offer in the tennis competition in the inaugural Afro Asian Games on Friday.

othersports Updated: Oct 31, 2003 21:14 IST

Living up to their pre-tournament favourites tag, India swept all the seven gold medals on offer in the tennis competition after the highly ranked players added three more gold to their kitty in the inaugural Afro Asian Games here on Friday.

Doubles Champion Mahesh Bhupathi, paired with teen sensation Sania Mirza, won the gold in the all-India mixed doubles after the top seeded pair of Sania and Rushmi Chakravarthy bagged the women's double and former National Champion Vijay Kannan landed the singles title to complete the yellow metal hunt.

It was local girl Sania who reaped the richest haul becoming the only athlete to have bagged as many as four gold medals in the inter-continental meet with top honours in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles events besides being part of the contingent that won the team gold.

In the mixed doubles final, Bhupathi, who added the title of the doubles he won along with Rohan Bopanna, and Sania outplayed the spirited duo of Vishal Uppal and Rushmi Chakravarthy 7-6 (6-1) 6-3.

Earlier, Sania and Rushmi, playing in the third title clash since yesterday, put paid to the hopes of Indonesia s S Rosaaya and Septi Mende with a comfortable 7-6 (2) 6-3 win in the women's doubles final.

Second seeded Vijay Kannan scored a comprehensive 6-1 6-1 in over Johnny Arcilla of Phillipines in a one-sided singles match also played on Friday.

Sania had won her singles title defeating Rushmi, while Bhupathi pairing up with Rohan Bopanna outplayed Sunil Kumar Sipaeya and Vinod Sridhar in the doubles yesterday. India began the competition on a winning note bagging the men's and women's team events led by Prakash Amritraj and Sania Mirza.

The all-Indian finals enabled India to finish with three silver as well, while Sonal Phadke and Megha Vakharia won a bronze each due to defeats in the women's doubles semifinals as the hosts won a total of 11 medals in the tennis events.

In the mixed doubles final, Uppal and Rushmi offered stiff resistance tough playing against Grand Slam champion Bhupathi and Wimbledon junior doubles champion Sania. Points were contested closely and both the pairs held their serves in the first set comfortably, barring once in the 11th with Rushmi serving and she had to save break points thrice.

In the tie-break, the pressure appeared to have caught up with the second seeds as they conceded a lead of 5-0 with Rushmi making most of the mistakes. This was enough for the top combine to clinch the set with the packed stadium fully behind them.

The second set also went on the same lines till the fifth game, but Bhupathi came up with a couple of stunning volleys from the net to break Uppal in the sixth. Though Rushmi held her serve with ease in the eighth, Bhupathi ensured an early finish in the next.

Bhupathi summed up the the team's performance saying, "we were expected to win seven golds and we have won them. The entire contingent has been successful. Everybody is happy".

Asked whether the weak field helped India, he said "They gave us the field and we came and played. Still I am sure Vijay Kannan faced a tough match in the semi-final yesterday. Also the Indonesian women troubled our players in the team event," he said referring to the tough 2-1 win over them in the final.

On the mixed doubles, he said it was just like the men's doubles match (featuring all Indians). "No one was under pressure and we enjoyed it."

Sania said it was great experience for her to play alongside Bhupathi. "I was really happy that I got to play against him. I have watched him on television when I was a kid."

Sania declined to compare the gold she won here with Bhupathi and the bronze with Leander Paes in the Asian Games saying both were entirely different tournaments and were important to her.

First Published: Oct 31, 2003 19:20 IST