25 Oct : Delhi’s Ratnika Batra became the youngest national tennis champion on Saturday after outplaying qualifier Shweta Rana in straight sets in a lop-sided final of the women’s hard court tournament at the DLTA complex in New Delhi.
The 14-year-old class IX student, Ratnika, who entered the main draw as a wild card, defeated her Himachal Pradesh rival 6-3 6-0 to lift the title.
The victory also won Ratnika a wild card for the USD 10,000 ITF event, to be held in Bangalore in February.It was perhaps for the first time that the summit clash of a women’s national championship was fought between a wild card and a qualifier.
Ratnika, who had won the under-14 and under-16 national championship titles last year, had knocked out two seeded players, including top seed Shalini Sahoo en route to the final.
However, top players like Isha Lakhani, Ankita and Sanaa Bhambri and Rushmi Chakravarthi did not participate in the event as they preferred to play in ITF tournaments abroad.
This took the sheen off the tournament but at the same time it gave youngsters an opportunity to hog the limelight.Ratnika began on a disastrous note by dropping her serve in the very first game of the match but then went on to win 12 games out of 14.
"The semifinal against the top seed was tough. Today I started playing well when I got my rhythm. Once I got that, I had no problem," Ratnika, a student of Bal Bharti Public school, Pitampura, said after the match.
"The Bangalore tournament will be really tough where I play against the best players of the country," she added.Shweta, who created quite a flutter by ousting three seeded players including second seed and title contender Sweta Solanki, had a bad day in office as she squandered many breakpoints in the first set.
The 10th standard student at Pragati Public School in Dwarka, made a good start by going up 2-0 but then some unforced errors coupled with some smart play by her rival did her in.
Shweta stuck to base line, relying on ground strokes, and in contrast Ratnika used drop shots very effectively.In the end, the better player won and deservedly got richer by Rs 30,000 which was though way less than Rs 80,000 offered at the last year’s championship.
Ratnika’s coach Dilip Mohanty said he was confident of her ward’s victory once he saw the draw."She has a strong game. After seeing the draw, I knew if she beat Shalini, she will went on to win the title. Her forehand is her strength but she needs to work on her backhand slice and drop shots," he said.
Ratnika flies to Malaysia on Saturday night to compete in an ITF under-18 event.