| Shikha Uberoi after her victory at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on Monday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: In the end it was an easy win for India’s Shikha Uberoi, who swept into the second round with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Japan’s Ryoko Fuda at the WTA Sunfeast Open on Monday.
However, countrywoman Ankita Bhambri, a qualifier, crashed out in straight sets, losing 6-7 (3-7), 3-6 to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
Shikha, playing the first of the two main attractions on centre court at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, managed to steal Sania Mirza’s thunder with a strong display of baseline tennis.
You would have been forgiven if you thought that Monica Seles had come to town with both players grunting louder as they hit the ball harder. Shikha was the more vociferous, in both grunt and deed, as she pumped the air hard, screaming “Yes” every time she won a point.
It wasn’t a spectacular match, but there were flashes of brilliance from the Indian, who has taken some pressure off herself in her quest to improve her ranking by clearing in the first hurdle.
Fuda took first guard, rather shakily, letting her practice partner force her to deuce. But the Japanese fought back and finally took the first game when Shikha make sent a crosscourt forehand long.
Nerves settled, Shikha held her easily, losing just a point. On Fuda’s serve, she quickly went up 0-30 hitting a couple of scintillating forehands and soon had two break points. She converted the first and from then on it was plain sailing for the world No. 152 as she didn’t allow Fuda to win another game.
The second set saw Shikha’s concentration and serve waver a little, and the plucky Japanese, who is ranked 185 in the world, managed to get a little of her own back by breaking the Indian in the first game.
Fuda kept attacking her backhand and the ruse worked and she got the break when the Indian sent a backhand flying into the net.
Shikha very nearly broke back in the second game, but Fuda managed to hold and take a 2-0 lead. The Indian’s serve was still shaky, but good enough for her to hold, and get on the scoreboard.
She squandered a chance to level things in the next game, wasting two break points after forcing the game to deuce. But that hardly mattered, as she seemed to be getting back into her groove and easily held to make it 3-2.
She still, however, needed break to level things and avoid being taken the full distance. She made a slight adjustment to her game and began running around her backhand. Fuda’s game plan was thrown off course and she was broken to love.
Shikha didn’t look back and reeled off the next three games to take the set and match.
“I didn’t really expect the one-sided scoreline,” she said later at the after-match press conference. “Beginning the second set I lost a little focus.
“In the next round I realise I need to hold on to my focus and maintain a higher level of play in general as each round will only get tougher.”
In the afternoon, Villmarie Castellvi of Puerto Rico had the honour of winning the first match of the tournament proper, upsetting higher ranked Swiss Emmanuelle Gagliardi 6-4, 6-4.
This was a first-time meeting between the two, and it was an upset of sorts with the Puerto Rican being ranked 171 in the world and Gagliardi, 100.
In doubles, third seeds Nicole Pratt of Australia and Thai Tamarine Tanasugarn bowed out in the first round. They were upset by the Chinese Taipei-Japanese duo of Chia-Jung Chuang and Rika Fujiwara 3-6, 2-6.
India’s Rushmi Chakravarthy and partner Junri Namigata of Japan also made an exit, going down to Melinda Czink of Hungary and Yuliana Fedak of Ukraine 6-7 (6-8), 4-6.
Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja tasted her first loss of the tournament when she and Italian partner Antonella Serra Zanetti lost to Chinese Taipei duo of Chin-Wei Chan and Su-Wei Hsieh 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 3-6.