Dalwinder Singh, 21, and Mahak Jain, 16, became India’s new national tennis champions on Sunday. The big-hitting Singh stunned top seed Suraj Prabodh 6-3, 6-4 in the men’s singles final, while Jain battled it out with Zeel Desai 7-5, 6-3 at the national championships in Delhi.
Fourth seed Singh’s relentless hitting, which had taken him this far in the tournament, worked in the final as well, as he packed a lot of power in his strokes and managed to subdue another good opponent. Jain, on the other hound, stood out with her court coverage, swift movement and her ability to stay calm under pressure. She returned almost everything that was thrown at her.
Both the men’s and women’s champions received Rs 3 lakh each, while the runners-up were awarded Rs 2 lakh. Rio 2016 Olympian Dipa Karmakar was present to hand over the trophies.
Bus driver’s son to national champ
Singh is only the second player from Punjab to win the national men’s title. Sunil Kumar Sipeya is the only other player from Punjab to have won the national title. He had won two trophies, the last one being in 2005.
Interestingly, Singh trains at the school where his father drives a school bus, the Harvest Academy in Jassowal, Punjab.
“When I was in class five, [Harvest Academy owner] Harvinder Singh Sir had come to the government school, where I studied, to know who wanted to learn tennis,” he said after his win. “Me and four to five others showed interest and we started to train. Since then, I am being sponsored by them.”
Prabodh has also recently joined the Harvest Academy and they have been hitting together for the last two months.
Overcoming mental block
Jain, a class X student in Indore, was solid in her defence and was able to outmanoeuvre Desai, despite having a weaker head-to-head ratio. The two have played each other four times before, with Desai winning three of those meetings. However, Jain had prevailed over Desai on the same courts earlier this year in an ITF junior final. Thereafter, the two had met in Gwalior and Kuala Lumpur, with Zeel winning both times in straight sets.
In the opening set, Jain had set point in the 12th game but got a bad call from the umpire. Zeel had sent it long and was called out by the line umpire but the chair umpire overruled it and it was deuce. But she held her nerve to clinch the title in two sets. Having lost two women’s ITF finals after beating a string of good players, this title will be a boost for Jain.
“It’s very special. It means a lot to me. I need to get more strong,” said Jain after her win.
The boys under-18 title was won by Delhi’s Sacchitt Sharrma, who beat Maharashtra’s Dhruv Sunish 6-3, 6-4 while the girls title was claimed by Vaidehi Chaudhari after she outplayed Akansha Bhan 6-3, 6-0.
With inputs from PTI