Lathika will face the tournament top seed Sathwika Sama of Andhra Pradesh, who got past third seed Kaaviya Balasubramaniam of Tamil Nadu 6-2, 6-2, in the under-12 category final.
But her journey to the final could have been halted abruptly in the quarter-final. As the umpire was just about to award the match to her opponent eighth seeded Shivani Ingle of Maharashtra, Lathika — who was late to reach the venue — showed up. “The quarter-final incident taught me a very important lesson about the value of time. I reached 20 minutes late for my singles quarter-final scheduled for 9.30 am. The confusion occurred as I had seen the previous day’s schedule, and was under the impression that my match was at 10.30 am. I was shocked when I saw the referee was just about to give a walkover to my opponent Shivani,” explained Lathika, who thrashed the eighth seed 6-0, 6-2 in the last eight encounter on Thursday. Earlier, in the pre-quarterfinal she stunned second seed Rutvi Shah of Gujarat.
Lathika considers Mumbai as her lucky venue. “The city has a special place in my heart. This is my first U-12 nationals and I reached the final here. Earlier, in March, I entered the finals of U-12 and U-14, but finished runners-up in the Championship series in Navi Mumbai,” said the Bhavans Rajaji Vidyashram student. Meanwhile, Rajasthan’s Udayan Bhakar and ninth seed Akshara Iska (AP) caused major upsets in U-16 boys’ and girls’ singles respectively. Akshara beat top seed Kamran Kaur 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, while Udayan defeated second seed Sachin Kumar
7-6 (3), 6-1.