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Rastogi captures Futures title

India’s Vijay Sundar Prashanth hits a return during the final against compatriot Karan Rastogi at the National Training Centre. Photo by: SRENG MENG SRUN

Top seeded Karan Rastogi touched his fiery best form to end unheralded Vijay Sundar Prashanth’s dream run in the all-Indian final of Cambodia’s second US$15,000 ITF Men’s Futures tennis tournament at the National Training Centre on Saturday.

The 332nd ranked Indian Davis Cupper, who came to the week-long event after an early exit from a Challenger tourney in Singapore, was all over Prashanth in a 90-minute duel, using a dazzling array of ground strokes to complete a  6-1, 6-3 victory.

“It is such a great feeling winning an event like this,” said Mumbai-based Rastogi.

“I started a bit slow in my first two rounds – it took time for me to settle down and get a sense of the conditions on court. But I picked it up in the quarterfinals and I felt very good during the final.”

Prasanth, meanwhile, admitted he was simply outclassed by the compatriot ranked 205 places above him in the world.

“Karan played solidly well as always. That left me with very little chances for a fightback,” he said, adding that he was “extremely happy” to reach the final for his career best result on the Asian circuit.

“I will now take home some fond memories from this historic event in Cambodia,” he said. “It is good start for me this year and I hope to build on this momentum.”

Prasanth, who came through a tough semifinal clash against Arata Onozowa of Japan 6-2, 7-5 on Friday, revealed he was heading back to India, but was planning a trip to the Ukraine, before two further Futures events in Mumbai and Calcutta during mid-March.

A break in the third game opened up the first set for the top seed, even as Prashanth dropped two more of his service games to make it a lot easier for his opponent.

When Rastogi ran into a 4-0 lead in the next set, it appeared all over bar shouting for the unseeded Prashanth, who was recovering from a left ankle injury he had aggravated during the quarterfinals.

But the fifth game brought Prashanth a glimmer of hope as he broke through Rastogi’s serve for the first time. He then held on to his serve to make the scoreline read a respectable 4-2.

Prashanth managed to squeeze out another service game, but that was the only luxury the favourite would allow his rival.

This was Rastogi’s third Futures victory in the last ten months. He won the Chandigarh event in India last March, before picking up another title and finishing runner up in two back-to-back events in Nigeria last October.

“I would love to come back to Cambodia – everything was so well organised,” said the champion. “My target for the year is to get my ranking below 300 and try to get into the qualifying rounds of big events.”

Prasanth echoed his fellow countryman’s sentiments. “I was impressed by the way these two weeks were conducted. The people are so friendly here. I wanted to visit many historic sites, but I couldn’t find the time.

“I will definitely come back, if not for tennis at least as a tourist,” he added.

In the doubles final on Friday, the Chinese pair of Liang Chi Huang and Hsin-Han Lee could not have wished for a better Lunar New Year gift. The third seeded partnership powered their way to the title at the expense of fourth seeded Indian combine Yuki Bhambri and Vivek Shokeen 6-3, 6-4.

After surviving some anxious moments in a fiercely contested 6-7, 7-6 (10-3) semifinal victory over Indians Vijay Sundar Prashanth and Ashutosh Singh, the Chinese duo were refreshingly bold in the final.

Working the net with great anticipation and keeping their returns sharp, they had no problems in sustaining the initiative through out the match, while Yuki Bhambri and Vivek Shokeen, who knocked out top seeded Vishnu Vardhan and Sharan Divij of India 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals, found the going real tough.

During the closing ceremony Saturday, National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Secretary General Vath Chamroeun handed out the trophies, with mementoes presented to visiting ITF officials headed by tournament supervisor Puneet Gupta of India.

Tournament Director Braen Aneiros, who is also the Cambodian national team head coach, was also honoured with a trophy. Tennis Federation of Cambodia Secretary General Tep Rithivit stated in his address that the two back-to-back events were a historic first step in Cambodia’s arrival on the international tennis scene.



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