Pranjala Yadlapalli of India beats Wiktoria Kulik of Poland.
FLUSHING MEADOWS, NEW YORK: Natasha Subhash of the United States, who turned 15 on September 2nd, began her campaign in the 2016 US Open Junior Girls championship, with a fighting, superb come-back-from behind win over the 12th seed Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, here, on Monday.
In another first round match in Junior Girls, Pranjala Yadlapalli of India beats Wiktoria Kulik of Poland, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, to advance into the round of 32.
Subhash, the Indian American teen sensation of the 2015 US Open, had got a Wild Card from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) last year. She had more than justified it by reeling off three straight wins over higher ranked players, including in two qualifying rounds, before losing in the 2nd round, playing with an injured knee.
When she played the US Open last year, Subhash became the youngest Indian American tennis player to play a Grand Slam.
Last year, this time, Subhash – who is currently the number one ranked player in the under-16 girls in the US, was not ranked by the ITF. She was outside of the top 1,000 in the world in her category. At present, she is in the top 60 in the world, in singles and doubles. Earlier this year, she played the French Open and the Italian Open, losing in the qualifying rounds. She was entered to play the main draw of Wimbledon, but couldn’t participate because of personal reasons, and didn’t participate in the qualifiers of the Australian Open.
Subhash is restricted because of her age to playing only a limited number of tournaments as stipulated by the International Tennis Federation.
Playing against the hard-hitting Zavatska of Ukraine, who has a potent forehand, Subhash took time to settle into her aggressive all-court mode, which is the hallmark of her game.
Despite getting break points in two successive games early on in the first set, Subhash couldn’t convert them. She also had trouble getting her first serve in, and some double faults didn’t help either in getting her rhythm going. In fact, both payers had a total of six double faults each in the match that lasted 2 hours and 7 minutes.
The low point for Subhash came in the second set, when serving with the score at 2-3, she double faulted three successive times to be down to 0-40, before notching two straight points. However, she lost that game, to go down 2-4.
Subhash, however, turned around her game when it mattered the most, got galvanized suddenly. Her cross court shots and volleys began to work. The serves began to drop in nicely. Her classy net game perked up.
Playing the talented Subhash, most players realize quickly that in her is a player against whom they just cannot relax at any point in the match. Her aggressive style, which persists from the first to the last point, has thrown off some of the best players in the world in her category, and earned praise from coaches of her rivals.
Zavatska learned that too, and despite picking up her game by a few notches, hitting some blistering cross court volleys, Subhash seemed to have an answer for everything. She showed solid defense and then gave back some ferocious backhand and forehand drives of her own, which proved too much for Zataska to handle.
Subhash ran away to an early 3-0 lead in the decider, before some errors let Zavatska crawl back to level at 3-3. With a sizeable crowd egging her on a windy, rather cool day, Subhash didn’t let frustration of letting go of some easy points, including an opportunity to finish off the match with an easy volley at the net, get the better of her focus. She kept a cool head, and finished off the match with an overhead smash.
In November of 2015, Subhash won a rare double: the girls’ singles and doubles titles at the 2015 Atlanta ITF tournament, played on hard courts at the Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners. Subhash became the first player of Indian-origin to achieve the rare double in an international tennis tournament.
Subhash, who is now home schooled, trains at 4 Star Tennis Academy, under coach Bear Schofield.
Natasha is the daughter of Subhash Kongassery and Sulekha Subhash, who emigrated to the United States in 1997, from Delhi. The couple, who are from Kerala, grew up in Delhi. Sulekha is a teacher, while Subhash Kongassery is an IT professional in the Washington, DC area.
Read an earlier interview with Natasha Subhash: http://www.