Updated: March 28, 2021 10:32:25 am
The $15,000 Men’s ITF Championships finals in Pune will have 19-year-old American Zane Khan take on compatriot Oliver Crawford on the Deccan Gymkhana hard courts. Winner of the legs in Lucknow and Indore, Khan made it to his third straight final, where he will have his second run-in with Crawford in the ITF circuit, after getting the better of their opponents in the semi-final rounds on Saturday.
In the first semi-final, Khan opened the first set with an ace and had the set tipped in his favour after he broke the 25-year-old Swedish player in the second and fourth game, closing the set with a straight 6-1. In set two, Mridha (ATP rank 584) seemed to have found his stride after pocketing a breakpoint in the second game and by the seventh game he was up 5-2. Khan made a comeback from being 2-5 down by winning five games in a row, finishing the match 6-1,7-5.
“The second set of the match was a bit of a roller coaster. The guy took a medical time out but started to play harder and better in the second set. It did not really distract me but I began to lose my temper in the first half of the second set, at how bad I was playing and I let it get to me. I had some bad serves and missed some balls. When I got broken I started to hang in there. I knew I had to fix my attitude if I wanted any chance to compete with him,” Khan said after the match.
Currently working with former professional tennis player Sebastien Grosjean and his team at Tennium High Performance Program back home, Khan said he is a much faster and stronger version of himself, which helps him recover better after matches. “During the lockdown I focused on my physical as well as worked on myself mentally, so I am not getting as injured. I had a strict diet that I followed under my fitness coach and within the first month, I lost about 20 pounds, but he is a good fitness coach who is looking after me,” he said.
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Although Khan has links to India from his maternal family, he said he has never visited the country before. “My maternal grandparents and my mother were from Delhi. I have never come here before but after my matches at 25K in Naples, it was a last moment decision to play here,” he said.
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Meanwhile, in another semi-final, the match became a one-sided affair after American player Oliver Crawford broke Manish Sureshkumar (ATP rank 666) in the seventh game in the first set, closing in with 6-4. By set two, he broke the already jaded Chennai lad in the third and the fifth game, closing the set 6-2 with no wiggle room for fightback.
“It was a good match but I do know that we both did not play our best today. I think it was a tough day to play. He is a good player and has had a couple of close matches this tournament, so I believe he was tired today. So it was good to get on him early and to continue to go from there. He tried to fight back in the second set but it is always better to win straight sets to get more time to recover from the day’s match,” said Crawford, who currently trains at the LTP Tennis Academy.
Talking about being in the ITF finals with Khan, Crawford (ATP rank 576) said, “He is playing unbelievably well. He is in his third final and he is not going to be any easy opponent. I have played with him before and it was a good match. I am slowly finding my rhythm. I am just competing well and playing the bigger moments by keeping it together,” he said.
Meanwhile, newly crowned national champion Arjun Khade and Switzerland’s Luca Castelnuovo clinched the doubles title at the $15,000 Men’s ITF tennis championships. In the double’s finals held in the second half of Saturday, the Khade-Castelnuovo duo won a resounding victory over Irishman Simon Carr and American Alexander Kotzen 6-4, 7-5.
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