Darja Semenistaja runs into Storm Hunter in WTA Mumbai Open tennis final | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Darja Semenistaja runs into Storm Hunter in WTA Mumbai Open tennis final

By, Mumbai
Feb 10, 2024 09:37 PM IST

India's Prarthana Thombare and Arianne Hartono will contest the doubles final in the $125,000 WTA tournament

On a day marked by major momentum shifts, Latvia's Darja Semenistaja and Australia's Storm Hunter scored straight sets victories to set up a final showdown in the WTA $125,000 Mumbai Open at the Cricket Club of India here.

Darja Semenistaja saw off Dutch player Arianne Hartono 7-5, 6-4 in the semi-finals
Darja Semenistaja saw off Dutch player Arianne Hartono 7-5, 6-4 in the semi-finals

Darja saw off Dutch player Arianne Hartono 7-5, 6-4 in the semi-finals, Storm battled for a 6-4, 7-6(4) win against American eighth seed Katie Volynets.

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In doubles, Arianne teamed up with Prarthana Thombare, the lone Indian left in the tournament, to beat Park Soh-yun and Zhibek Kulambayeva 6-2, 6-1 in the semis. They will face second seeds Sabrina Santamaria and Dalila Jakupovic for the title.

Arianne won four games in a row after being broken early in the singles semi-final. But from 3-5 down in the first set, it was Darja’s turn to get on a roll as she won 10 of the next 14 games to run away with the contest.

At No.6, Darja has been the highest seed left in the draw since the quarter-finals and she showed her calibre again by playing cleverly. The 21-year-old left-hander is brilliant with drop shots but what stood out was her patience during the testing phases.

“I think I was quite stable,” the world No.121 said after her win. “No matter the score, I just kept going. I didn’t make any easy mistakes or get frustrated and am pleased with the way I handled myself on the court.”

While it’s been a humid week in Mumbai with several players struggling in the heat and some even withdrawing, what’s added to the challenge is the strong breeze. With the ball dipping suddenly and bouncing awkwardly, players have had to consistently adapt.

“Every match is so different,” said Darja. “While the day session is hot and humid, it’s totally different at night. Today, the match was kind of in between and the conditions were quite windy. So yeah, everyone here is just trying to adjust as much as we can.”

In the first semi-final, Storm won a topsy-turvy first set before finding herself 0-5 down in the second. But she turned things around in dramatic fashion by winning the next six games and clinching the tie-break.

“I was mentally preparing for a third set, it’s not easy to come back from 0-5 down,” said Storm. “I was trying to play on my terms a bit more and not make errors. Playing longer rallies was fine but I didn’t want to give her cheap points.”

It’s been an interesting run to the final for Storm, who is also a left-hander and got her best singles result at a Grand Slam recently when she reached the Australian Open third round. In the first round, she was up 3-0 in the opening set when her opponent retired. In the quarters, she was due to play Alina Korneeva but the highly rated Russian teenager gave a walkover.

“You can see it positively or negatively,” said the 29-year-old, ranked 150 in the world. “Of course, the negative part is that you’re not getting the matches under your belt and sometimes you need the experience of battling through pressure moments before you play the semis or final. The positive thing is I’ve been practicing every day and feel fresh. Out of every player left in the draw, I don’t have any excuse to be feeling tired. Now, I’m in the final and it doesn’t matter how I got here.”

Storm’s mixed doubles partner at the Australian Open last month was compatriot Matthew Ebden, who won the men’s doubles crown with Rohan Bopanna. It was the first men’s doubles Grand slam title for the 43-year-old Indian, and Storm hailed it as an incredible achievement.

“I haven’t spoken with him (Bopanna) yet, I think he’s been absolutely bombarded with things here which is amazing,” Storm said. “But he’s such a nice guy, always says hello and treats everyone so respectfully. I guess we have a connection since we share a doubles partner (Ebden). I’m so happy for him and it’s been amazing for Indian tennis.”

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