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THE HINDU - 4/04/2004

MELANIE SOUTH CLINCHES TITLE

MUMBAI, APRIL 3. Melanie South, anxious to make an impression on the International Tennis

Federation's women's circuit, overcame early jitters in her first Futures final. Finding the pace and bounce of the Shivaji Park Gymkhana courts to her liking, the 17-year-old Londoner took apart Chan Young Chen's game bit by bit before assuming charge for a 6-4, 6-4 victory in the Mumbai leg singles final on Saturday. An easy day's work worth $ 1600 and 16 points as bonus.

"This was my first final at this level in ITF, so felt a little pressure at the start," said the British girl, a Monica Seles fan and staying within shouting distance of Wimbledon courts. "Once I settled down to play my game, winning points became easier," said Melanie, savouring the taste of success on her first week in India.

She now moves to Delhi for the second leg, armed with confidence of four tough matches, displaying an all-round game in patches and relying on brute strength to have her way.

Chen, an unseeded Chinese who appeared pleased with herself after a quiet way up the women's main draw, was at the receiving end in the final from the time Melanie settled into a pattern, hitting huge topspin forehands mixed with deep, low double-handed backhands.

The former won only by taking the initiative with a net charge, sliced return or receiving second serves inside the baseline, but these sporadic efforts made little impact on the outcome.

The high point of the women's final was a rally in the ninth game of the first set, scores level at 4-4 when the British teenager forced her way through on fifth breakpoint.

The Chinese youngster double-faulted at 30-40, took the next point with a forehand down the line pass at the end of a long rally, followed by three more deuces before Melanie came up a forehand winner for a break (4-5), serving out the set and facing little trouble in the second against a determined, but sluggish Chen. The Mumbai leg was sponsored by Mother's Reciepe.

The results: Final: singles: Melanie South (Great Britain) bt Chong Yan Chen (China) 6-4, 6-4.



by Nandakumar Marar



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