Karman Thandi, Pranjala Yadlapalli out of L&T Mumbai Open
Karman made a tame exit as she lost in straight sets, 2-6, 4-6, to top-seeded Chinese Saisai Zheng in the singles after starting off brilliantly by taking a 2-0 lead, but then slumping badly and dropping the next ten games on the trot to lose in 1 hour and 17 minutes.
But the bigger heartbreak was reserved for Pranjala, ranked 288. She won the opening set 6-3 and was on the cusp of eliminating number five seed Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand when she was serving for the match at 5-3 before the latter made a splendid comeback and won 7-5 to level the set scores.
A downcast Pranjala, who came into this USD 125,000 WTA event with back to back wins in two 25K ITF events in Lagos, Nigeria, dropper her serve early in the third set and lost the match 3-6 5-7 1-6 in 2 hours, 13 minutes to the 103rd ranked Thai.
Pranjala, who is training under Stephen Koon in the Thai capital of Bangkok, had grabbed the opening set with some aggressive play that helped her break Kumkhums serve twice in the third and ninth games.
The Thai was put under similar pressure by the Hyderabad-based Pranjala in the second set and was broken in the fourth game at 30 after Kumkhum served two double faults to take a 3-1 lead. But she was broken immediately back by the Thai before the Indian broke the Thai's serve again to go 4-2 and then 5-3 up.
Kumkhum made a great fight-back when faced with elimination as she applied tremendous pressure on Pranjalas serve which was broken finally on the seventh break point after deuce was called 5 times.
This was the turning point as the Thai took the set by breaking her rival's serve in the 11th to lead 6-5 and held her serve at love to win it 7-5 and force the decider. The final set was a washout as Kumkhum raced to win it 6-1 to enter the second round.
Earlier, Karman let herself down against her Chinese opponent, ranked far above her in the world, by committing far too many errors.
The tall Indian girl, back from a runner-up finish last week in China in a 25K ITF event, held her opening service game at love and then broke the top-seeded Zhangs serve at 15 to raise visions of some good contest which was not to be.
From 2-0, the 20-year-old Karman lost the next eight games in the opening set which she lost 6-2 without the Chinese woman, who has already earned close to 2.3 million USD in prize money, really being forced to do something extraordinary.
Karman, ranked 215, lost the opening set and then was hopelessly down 0-4 after conceding her serve twice when she picked up her game a bit and won her first game. At 1-5, and 15-40 she looked down and out but then saved three match points to hold her serve and keep afloat.
Against the run of play, the Indian broke Zhangs serve to narrow it to 3-5, held her own to make it 4-5 but then her comeback trail ended as the Chinese woman served out for the match at love.
The match showed the huge gap between the two women. Karman had lost to the Chinese woman in straight sets in the round of 16 earlier this year in Nanking.
Zhang had words of encouragement for the beaten Indian girl afterwards.
"Karman is strong and has a bright future. She should attack more," were the Chinese words about Karman. "I missed a couple of short balls and finishing balls in the first set. I was getting better in the second set but it was too late. I couldn't find any momentum. I need to work on my fitness," said Karman after her first-round loss. Last year also she had lost in round one in the WTA event here.
Fourth seeded Olga Danilovic, a 17-year-old from Serbia, went down in three sets against Montenegros Danka Kovinic in the first round.
Second seed and last year's losing finalist, Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia overpowered Russian opponent Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets to reach the second round.
Results: Singles: 1st round: 1-Saisai Zheng (CHN) bt Karman Thandi (IND) 6-2 6-4; Danka Kovinic (MNE) bt 4-Olga Danilovic (SRB) 4-6 7-5 6-0; 6-Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) bt Tereza Mrdeza (CRO) 6-3 6-2; 5-Luksika Kumkhum (THA) bt Pranjala Yadlapalli (IND) 3-6 7-5 6-1.
2nd round: Valentini Grammatikopoulou (GRE) bt Deniz Khazaniuk (ISR) 6-3 4-6 6-4; Dalila Jakupovic (SLO) bt Sabina Sharipova (UZB) 6-4 6-2; Irina Khromacheva (RUS) bt Urszula Radwanska (POL) 2-6 6-1 6-2.
(With inputs from agencies.)