Poonacha beats Crawford to clinch tennis title


India’s Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha scored a convincing 6-3, 7-6 win over American fourth seed Oliver Crawford in the ITF men’s $15,000 New Delhi final to bring cheers to the home fans at the RK Khanna Tennis Stadium on Sunday.

The victory helped Poonacha earn India its maiden home win in singles in the ITF World Tennis Tour series, which began in early March.

With this triumph, Poonacha also ended his title drought on the ITF Men’s Tour since his maiden win in Indonesia in 2018.

“It feels great. A big thank you to all the support staff, everyone played an important role in improving my game. It’s a very happy moment, just too nervous. It’s a good feeling. The one thing that kept me going was that I have worked so hard and did not want to give up so easily. So, I just kept on fighting,” said Poonacha.

The 25-year-old Indian sailed through the first set easily. However, Crawford, the winner of last week’s $15,000 Pune event, made a strong bid to come back in the second set and take the match into the decider.

“Obviously, I did not get the job done today. I wish I was a little bit better today, but he (Poonacha) played well and he deserved to win,” said Crawford.

The American was leading 5-3 in the second set but could not convert three break points, which eventually cost him the match. The Indian managed to hold his serve and levelled the scores at 5-5. He then finished off the contest in the tie breaker to bag the trophy.

“I did not play really well down the stretch. I played a couple of good points on his serve. It was him playing well and me not playing my best in the crucial moments and when that happens, it’s tough to get it done,” said Crawford.

“It was a good last two weeks here in India. Super happy with the way I have performed,” the American added.

Result: Singles (Final): Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha (Ind) bt Oliver Crawford (USA) 6-3, 7-6.