Tennis: Tshering Phuntsho defeated Arup Mullick from Kolkata 6-3, 6-4 in the opening match of the second series of the Bhutan-India Friendship Tennis Tournament in Thimphu yesterday.

The youngster from Bhutan struggled with his serves opening up several opportunities for the senior Indian player to lead in the game. However, the Indian was also struggling to get a hang on the new court.

It wasn’t a comfortable game for Tshering Phuntsho but he managed to take a decisive lead of three games in the first set. He came from 0-40 to win the fourth game in the first set with some powerful forehand shots.

Arup Mullick fought back into the match and brought the deficit to just two games in the first set. However, multiple unforced errors from the Indian gave the Bhutanese a comfortable win in the first set.

The second set started with some controversy when a disagreement between Arup Mullick and the chair umpire happened. The Indian player accused the umpire for calling his shot over the left side of the court out, which he said, was clearly in.

The player said that if the decision remains the same, he would quit the game. Officials from the organising committee gathered at the court and the dispute was settled after a while.

The match continued and it was Tshering Phuntsho who had a convincing lead of four games to one in the second set. However, a series of double faults from Tshering gave away crucial points to the Indian. But the game, set and match at the end went in favour of the Bhutanese despite several unforced errors and weak serves.

After a successful conduct of the first Bhutan-India Friendship Tennis Tournament last year, Bhutan Tennis Federation (BTF) with support from India-Bhutan Foundation is organising the second series of the tournament to promote the game of tennis in the country.

The national head coach, Tshering Namgay, said that the tournament this year has also received unprecedented response form both local and international players from the neighbouring states of Assam, West Bengal, Nagaland, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling and Kolkata.

“Our players are getting better but very slowly. We need to conduct more international tournaments so that our players get valuable exposure,” said Tshering Namgay. “A lot of my junior players are getting better and this is a positive trend for the federation.”

Veteran player from Kolkata, Satyajeet Burman, said that the tournament this year has improved a lot from last year. “This year, we have seen a much improved tournament and I must say it is a world class tournament,” he said, adding that the Bhutanese players have improved a lot technically. “Their strokes have improved a lot with addition of spins and variety to their game play. Players are also serving much better now.”

The youngest national champion, Tenzin Singye Dorji, will also be in action during the weeklong tournament. “I’ve trained hard for this competition. I’ll give my best and hopefully I can win this tournament.”

A total of 62 players are taking part in the competition.

Younten Tshedup