Niki Poonacha and Zeel Desai reign supreme

Register comeback wins against Digvijay and Sharmada in the finals

Niki Poonacha wielded the magic wand yet again to script an improbable victory that crowned him a champion for the third time at the DLTA Complex here.

“I have a 15-match winning streak. Hope it continues,” said the 26-year-old Niki after saving three matchpoints on way to a 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 victory over Digvijay Pratap Singh, in three hours and 38 minutes, in the Fenesta National tennis championship on Saturday.

After winning the Fenesta National title in 2019, Niki had won the ITF men’s title in April this year, against the odds, at the DLTA.

Tall and blessed with a big game, that is nicely tuned at the Rohan Bopanna Academy in Bengaluru, Niki did struggle to find his rhythm for the most part against an inspired Digvijay who did everything except hit the winning shot.

After losing the first set, Niki did take a 5-2 lead in the second, but found Digvijay catching up and sprinting ahead with his vibrant game. At 6-3 in the tie-break, it looked curtains for Niki’s challenge, but Digvijay was unable to close out. Niki lobbed to save the second of the match points, while Digvijay erred in missing the other two.

In the decider, it was Digvijay who led 3-1 before Niki found a semblance of his game to turn the tide in his favour. After hitting robust groundstrokes to move ahead, Niki served out the match brilliantly at love, firing two aces in the process, to affix his stamp of class.

In the women’s final, top seed Zeel Desai recovered her rhythm after being down 1-3 in the opening set and did not drop another game in beating qualifier Sharmada Balu 6-3, 6-0.

“The National title is very important to me. I had won all the under-14, 16 and 18 national titles and this was the one missing,” said Zeel who had lost to Mahak Jain in the final in her earlier best performance.

For coach Jignesh Rawal, who trains Zeel at the Altevol Academy in Ahmedabad, it was mission accomplished.

For Sharmada, it was a memorable effort as she had won the doubles title with Sravya Shivani and had made a strong attempt at the singles crown.

The results (finals): Men: Niki Poonacha bt Digvijay Pratap Singh 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4.

Women: Zeel Desai bt Sharmada Balu 6-3, 6-0.

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