| Harsh Mankad (left) and Vishal Uppal with their trophies Saturday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta, March 29: Zbynek Mlyranik’s story is straight out of folklore.
The Czech-born tennis journeyman from Austria landed in Mumbai a fortnight back hoping to qualify for the $15,000 ITF Futures meet. He was coming out of a 14-month hiatus, thanks to three operations to repair a troublesome right ankle.
Well, not only did the 25-year-old make it to the main draw of the Mumbai meet, he went on to capture the first prize conquering Indian No. 1 Rohan Bopanna. And on Saturday afternoon, Mlyranik made short work of Uruguayan qualifier Marcel Felder to win the Exide ITF Futures crown 6-3, 6-4 at the BTA Complex, thus capping a memorable visit to this country.
Mlyranik was much the superior player in trying conditions. There was a breeze, but it did little to alleviate the problems caused by the heat and humidity.
Mlyranik, who survived three three-setters en route to the title round, seemed to be in a hurry Saturday. He got into his stroke-making groove quickly and unsettled Felder who looked to be a bit edgy.
Two breaks took the Austriasn to 4-1 before a loose service game narrowed the gap. Felder, struggling to control his top-spin returns, slipped further and surrendered the opening set.
The script didn’t change in the second set and Mlyranik was soon serving for the match at 5-3. Two uncharacteristic backhand errors and a rare Felder winner gave the Uruguayan a lifeline. But it didn’t last long as a nervous Felder produced two double-faults to cut short his agony.
His fine 83-minute effort gave Mlyranik 18 ranking points and a cheque for $1950. With a similar booty last week, the Austrian would shoot up into the top 450. “I had no expectations when I came to India but after these two titles my target will be to push my ranking close to 260-270 by the time the US Open comes about so that I can play the qualifiers there,” Mlyranik said.
Easy for Mankad-Uppal
The doubles final threw up a repeat winner too. Harsh Mankad and Vishal Uppal ripped fellow-Indians Vijay Kannan and Ajay Ramaswami 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and eight minutes to pick up 18 points and $945.
Kannan and Ramaswami, who won the deciding third set of their semi-final over Italians Alessandro da Col and Giuseppe Menga Saturday morning, had no answers to Uppal’s sharp netplay and Mankad’s solid groundstrokes.
The only time Uppal and Mankad seemed to falter was when the latter was serving for the match at 5-4. The Indian Davis Cupper found himself staring at break-point thrice but managed to wriggle out of crisis each time with cleverly directed serves.