Abhimanyu Vannemreddy remained on course for a wildcard entry into the junior French Open with two contrasting wins but Malikaa Marathe was knocked out of the Rendez-Vous event here on Friday.
The 17-year-old Abhimanyu subdued China’s Sheng Tang 6-2 6-2 and later battled past Korea s Minjong Park 3-6 6-3 6-3 in a gruelling match to top Group I and qualify for Saturday’s final.
Abhimanyu, who was a last-minute replacement of injured Siddanth Banthia, will now fight it out with Group II winner.
Banthia, winner of the Indian leg of Rendez-Vous, had pulled out of the event due to an injury. Since Abhimanyu had ended a runner-up to Banthia, he made the cut for the event.
Malikaa, who turned only 14 in April, competed against much older and experienced campaigners but gave a good account of herself.
Playing her first ever tournament outside India, Malikaa took some time to settle and gradually gained confidence. She was routed 1-6 0-6 in the first match by Japan’s Anri Nagata and went down fighting 6-7(5) 5-7 against Brazil s Nathalia Wolf Gasparin.
Bengaluru’s Abhimanyu, who till recently trained with former Davis Cupper Vishal Uppal in Delhi, had landed in Paris only on Friday morning but got himself attuned to the conditions quickly.
After having just one practice session with coach Vivek Satyajit, sent by AITA to help the Indian players, Abhimanyu came out firing against the Chinese, who looked bothered by the heat but Park proved to be a tough nut to crack.
Park was troubled by a right leg issue which helped Abhimanyu s cause. While against the Chinese, Abhimanyu was getting into position very quickly for his counter strokes, the Korean dictated the terms of the play with his superior game. He packed a lot of power in his shots, despite being short, and used drop shots with accuracy.
Abhimanyu though was rewarded for his tenacity and retrieving ability. His never-say-die-spirit kept him in the hunt and eventually he crossed the line.
Abhimanyu is first Indian to qualify for the Rendez-Vous final as in the 2015 and 2016 editions none of the four Indians Basil Khama, Sathwika Sama, Adil Kalyanpur, and Mahak Jain could make the cut.
Park took two medical timeouts and towards the end of the match his movement was crippled due to pain. It prevented an exciting finish to the match. The Indian broke him in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead, which proved decisive.
“After 3-3 I knew I had it. First set I was doubting myself. I was not feeling it right. I stayed calm in the second set at 4-3 that broke his rhythm,” Abhimanyu said.
"It’s going to be a battle tomorrow," he added.
Malikaa had several chances to win her second match as she was up 5-2 in the opening set and 5-3 in the second but her unforced errors allowed the Brazilian to make a comeback.
I had lot of chances but could not convert. I have learnt my lessons. I will come out stronger, Malikaa, accompanied by her family, said after her campaign was over.
Coach Satyajit said, "She needs to work on her physical aspect. She needs to be stronger. And she was ill-prepared for the event.
"Ideally AITA should have conducted a one-week clinic before she came here. She hardly played matches on clay. It s hell of an opportunity to grab a place in the Grand Slam main draw and she could have done better if better prepared.