Winner: Shrivalli beat second seed Valentini 6-3, 6-2 in the first qualifying round.

Winner: Shrivalli beat second seed Valentini 6-3, 6-2 in the first qualifying round.
| Photo Credit: Kamesh Srinivasan

With her big serves and explosive strokes, Shrivalli Bhamidipaty is one of the most exciting women’s tennis players to watch in the country.

The two-time National champion, who won her maiden ITF women’s title in Bengaluru in November, may not be that consistent owing to the style of her game, as she goes for broke at every opportunity.

On Saturday, however, on the newly laid black court of the Cricket Club of India (CCI), the 22-year-old Shrivalli showed a rare maturity to match wits against the 26-year-old Valentini Grammatikopolou. The small-built Greek, who had reached the second round of the US Open, was ranked a career-best 143, winning 16 singles titles on the Tour with equal felicity on clay and hard courts.

After a hesitant start when she trailed 1-3, Shrivalli played with an impressive blend of precision and power, stroking with poise and punch on both the flanks, to beat the second seed 6-3, 6-2 in the first qualifying round of the L&T $115,000 Mumbai Open WTA tennis tournament.

“It was great to have a debut like this in the big event. We had arrived late after playing in Indore yesterday. I had very little practice here. But, it was a big opportunity and I told myself to be patient,” said Shrivalli.

Shrivalli had won three singles matches in a series of five recent tournaments in Solapur, Navi Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, and Indore.

“I am glad that we have so many tournaments at home now. We are able to play without being under pressure to capitalise on the few chances we had earlier. We are exposed to so many top-quality players that the quality of everyone’s game has gone up now, and anybody can win on a given day,” she added.

Even though everyone has been talking highly about her game, Shrivalli gained confidence by winning the Fenesta National championship last year. She is grateful to her long-time coach Anand Kumar and mentor Vishaal Uppal for trying to help her thrive on her strength. “Both my coaches tell me to focus on my strength and keep calm.”

Drawn to play Viktoria Morvayova of Slovakia in the second and final qualifying round, Shrivalli said that she would continue to enjoy competing against high-quality players and try to have fun. “I have nothing to lose. My focus is to play my best game.”

With Zeel Desai outplaying another Greek, seventh seed Sapfo Sakellaridi, and Vaidehi Chaudhari getting past fourth seed Dejana Radanovic of Serbia after five games as the latter was sick, it did look that the Indian diamonds were getting polished well to shine bright on the professional circuit.

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