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Indian tennis players steal limelight

Led by teen sensation Sania Mirza, Indian tennis players reigned supreme winning all seven gold medals on offer at the Games.

tennis Updated: Nov 01, 2003 23:13 IST
V Shrikanth (PTI)
V Shrikanth (PTI)

Led by teen sensation Sania Mirza, who finished with a grand quadruplet, Indian tennis players reigned supreme winning all seven gold medals on offer and a rich haul of 11 medals at the inaugural Afro-Asian Games which concluded here on Friday.

Though the field left much to be desired in view of the absence of top players from countries like Thailand, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the Indian players should be given the due credit, particularly the women who had to quell a strong challenge from Indonesian rivals.

India won both the team events, while Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania, Rohan Bopanna, Rushmi Chakravarthy and Vijay Kannan grabbed the golds in the individual events, which witnessed three all-Indian finals.

India defeated Nigeria 3-0 in the men s event with Prakash Amritraj, Rohan Bopanna and Kannan and Vishal Uppal coming up with wins.

Getting off to a start after teething problems posed by uncertainty over participants, including Bhupathi and Amritraj, the tennis competition saw the Indians remaining unconquered, except in the women's doubles where Sonal Phadke and Megha Vakharia tasted defeat in the semifinals.

Wimbledon girls doubles champion Sania stole the limelight completing a quadruplet of golds, the highest in the games, winning the women s singles, doubles and the mixed doubles which gave her a rare opportunity of playing along side Bhupathi. Besides she led India to the gold in the team event.

Sania beat Rushmi in the singles and later teamed up with her to clinch the doubles title defeating Indonesia s Maya and Septi.

Bhupathi and Sania lifted the mixed doubles title defeating Uppal and Rushmi in straight sets.
Sania later overcame Rushmi 7-6 (6-4) 6-3 in the singles.

Four-time Grand Slam doubles winner Bhupathi combined with Bopanna to defeat Sunil Kumar Sipaeya and Vinod Sridhar combine 6-4 3-6 6-2 in a close encounter.

The success at the Games should augur well for Sania to reach new heights and she had already set her eyes on breaking into the top 250 of the WTA rankings.

Sania, who has stirred interest in tennis in her home city, remained a big crowd puller besides Bhupathi.

Asia was represented by India, Phillipines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, while Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo from Africa participated in the tennis event.

Top players like Paradorn Srichappan of Thailand, Black brothers from Zimbabwe could not compete here due to their pre-occupation with more productive ATP and other circuits.

But the competition provided an opportunity for the young players from the foreign countries to play before stronger opponents and the satisfaction of having taken part in the inter-continental meet.

Besides Sania, the event was memorable also for Vijay Kannan who won the singles title which would definitely boost his confidence.

Kannan, going through a title drought after his win in the national hardcourt championship in 2001 in Delhi, outclassed his opponent Johnny Arcilla of Phillipines 6-1 6-1 in a lop-sided final.

He was under pressure to clinch the gold to keep Indian hopes of sweeping all the seven gold as top seed Prakash Amritraj pulled out in the individual events due to illness.

First Published: Nov 01, 2003 23:13 IST