| Syed Fazaluddin is congratulated by father Nayeemuddin and Akhtar Ali for reaching the quarter finals on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: Syed Fazaluddin surprised himself - and just about everyone else at the South Club - by advancing to the quarter finals of the IndianOil Servo National Grass Court Championships on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old tennis pro-turned-banker, based in the US, requested for a wild card to have some fun while on vacation. He had more than his fair share as he saw off third seed Aditya Madkekar 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.
If that reflected poorly on the talent pool in Indian tennis, there was more to come.
Fifth seed Vivek Shokeen, who has already played a live Davis Cup rubber and is considered one for the future, bowed out in straight sets to Harsh Mankad - a man nine years his senior.
Mankad, another wild card entrant playing only his fourth tournament after a one-year lay off, won 6-4, 6-4 despite not being in the form and fitness which carried him to world No. 220 in the first half of 2006.
Up next in Mankads path will be top seed Karan Rastogi, who conceded six games to Rohan Gajjar en route to the last eight.
Fazaluddin will face V.M. Ranjeet, who ousted local boy Manoj Sewa 6-3, 6-4. I have no clue how he (Ranjeet) plays, Im just delighted to have won two rounds, said Syed Nayeemuddins elder son.
I dont know how Im in the quarter finals of the nationals. Im surprised to be standing on my feet after playing three sets, admitted Fazaluddin. He plays tennis only occasionally in the US, which explains the considerable weight he has put on since his Davis Cup days.
The only way Fazaluddin could beat a 20-year-old was to play smart tennis. That he did, using his vast experience of playing on the lawns of South Club.
Fazaluddin who took the first set on a solitary break, was out of breath in the second as Madkekar prolonged the rallies. Realising that the second set was getting out of hand, Fazaluddin decided to conserve energy for the decider.
He put a little more effort in his serve and ventured up the net a few times. Madkekar cracked and Fazaluddin was through in an hour and a half.
The womens matches were mostly one-sided with not one of the eight contests going the full distance. Local girls Ragini Vimal, the sixth seed, and Treta Bhattacharya booked quarter final berths with convincing wins.
Only one of them, however, will have a chance to feature in the semis.
Ragini was made to toil in the first set by Anushree Thamanna, the Karnataka girl who scalped Shivika Burman in the first round. The power of shots hit by the stockily built Ragini, though, proved too much for little Anushree to handle.
Treta, fresh from an upset over fourth seed Parul Goswami, was far too strong for Smita Rani Jain, the unseeded Bengal girl winning 6-2, 6-1.
Dipti Srivastava, another local challenger, played a close opening set with second seed Sonal Phadke before bowing out 3-6, 1-6. No. 1 seed Rushmi Chakravarthy dismissed Shahin Ansari 6-1, 6-0.
QUARTER FINAL LINE-UPS
MEN: Karan Rastogi (1) vs Harsh Mankad; Divij Sharan (4) vs Vinod Sridhar; V.M. Ranjeet vs Syed Fazaluddin; J. Vishnu Vardhan (6) vs Ashutosh Singh (2)
WOMEN: Rushmi Chakravarthy (1) vs Reshmi Teltumbde (7); Asha Nanda Kumar (3) vs Poojashree Venkatesh; Ragini Vimal (6) vs Treta Bhattacharya; Shalini Sahoo vs Sonal Phadke (2).