Manika Batra stars for India with three wins in a day -
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Manika Batra stars for India with three wins in a day

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Sharath goes down in day’s last match to talented Kazakh Kirill Gerassimenko

Manika Batra in action.

Khel Today Bureau 

Panaji, Goa: Star Indian women’s paddler Manika Batra led the Indian performance with three wins across formats as main draw engagements in the World Table Tennis (WTT) Star Contender Goa, got underway here at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium. Manika, presently at world rank 34, first won her women’s singles round of 64 match and then successively partnered Archana Kamath and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, to reach the quarter-finals of the women’s and mixed doubles respectively, in her first appearance at a home WTT tournament. Sutirtha Mukherjee was the other Indian to win all her matches on the day, emerging triumphant in the women’s singles and doubles respectively.

However, in what will be heartbreak for home fans, Indian legend Achanta Sharath Kamal bowed out of the tournament after going down in both his singles and doubles matches. In the morning session, Sharath and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran lost their men’s doubles round of 16 match to Koreans Jaehyun An and Seungmin Cho 3-1 (11-6,11-7,7-11,11-8). Then in the final match of the day, rising Kazakh star Kirill Gerassimenko defeated the reigning Commonwealth Games champion in straight games (3-0: 11-8,11-7,11-8) to break Indian hearts.

Manika reigns

Manika, the highest ranked Indian in women’s singles, got off to a flying start early in the first session, defeating 152nd ranked Englishwoman Ho Tin-Tin 3-0 (11-4,11-8,11-5). She then partnered Archana to a hard-fought 3-2 (8-11,9-11,11-5,11-6,12-10) win over the Hong Kong, China, pairing of Li Ching Wan and Zhu Chengzhu, after being 0-2 down at one stage to the qualifiers. Finally, in the evening session, her pairing with Sathiyan prevailed over the Korean pair of Lim Jonghoon and Shin Yubin in four games (3-1: 11-7,3-11,11-6,11-6) in a mixed doubles match.

“I am really happy that this tournament WTT Star Contender is happening for the first time in India. Home crowd is here, and I am really happy that people will come to cheer me and cheer all the Indian players. Today I won my singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Mixed doubles were really tough as we have lost against them twice before. But this time we won, and I am really happy with that win. Let’s see what happens in this tournament. I’ll give my 100% and my best for my country and for myself”. – Manika Batra (with Sathyan G) post their mixed double win against Shin Yubin and Lim Jonghoon (Korea Republic).

“Fantastic win. I think by far I would rate this as one of the best ever mixed doubles win. They are a very solid pair, technically they are very strong and they have been winning back to back tournaments in WTT events. So, to beat such a strong Korean pair is definitely one of the best ever wins for us”. – Sathyan Gnanasekaran (with Manika Batra) post their Mixed Double win against Shin Yubin and Lim Jonghoon (Korea Republic)

Sutirtha too put it across compatriot Suhana Saini in four games (11-7,11-7,8-11, before winning her opening doubles match with Ayhika Mukherjee. The Indian pair pulled off a creditable 3-0 (11-9,11-6,11-5) victory over the Egyptian-Polish pair of Natalia Bajor and Yousra Helmy to make the last eight. They now play the crack Swedish pair of Linda Bergstrom and Christina Karllberg, who were comfortable 3-0 winners against India’s Poymantee Baisya and Anannya Basak.

Day’s upsets

There was also a major upset in the men’s doubles where reigning world champions and second seeds Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Falck of Sweden, were ousted by the Japanese duo of Yuto Kuzikuri and Mizuki Oikawa 2-3 (12-14,11-2,9-11,11-4,9-11) in their first round of 16 match.

Falck (wr 36) had a day to forget as he also went down to Korean Daeseong Cho (wr 193) 3-0 (11-1,11-7,11-4) in his men’s singles round of 64 match. In another minor upset in the men’s singles Korean Jaehyun An (wr 49) beat Croat Tomislav Pucar (wr 46) in five games.

In the women’s singles, world number 30, Xiaona Shan of Germany went down to world number 120 Hayeong Kim 0-3 (11-8,14-12,11-5). In the afternoon session, Thai girl Orawan Paranang (wr 119) shocked Bernadette Szocs (wr 32) of Romania in five games. Then in the evening session, Korean Zion Lee (wr 71) upset American Lily Zhang (wr 27) 3-1 (12-10,11-8,7-11,12-10) in a pulsating encounter. Finally, another Korean Yang Haeun (wr 175), a former mixed doubles world champion and Asian Games bronze medalist, rolled back the years in the second-last match of the day, to down Swede Christina Kallberg (wr 69) in four games. The 29-year-old Yang has reached as high as 11 in the world ranking at one time.

With the big guns slated to come in on Thursday, the first day of the main tournament, otherwise largely went according to rankings and seedings.

Sathiyan wards off Harmeet

In the men’s singles, Sathiyan (wr 41) took out a fighting Harmeet Desai (wr 142) in four games in a match pregnant with Indian interests. He won the first easily at 11-4, but Harmeet came back to win the second 10-12 and then the third also went more than the distance as Sathiyan took it 13-11, before closing out the fourth at 11-9.

In other men’s singles results, three Frenchmen (Simon Gauzy-wr 32, Emmanuel Lebbesen-wr 54, Felix Lebrun-wr 70), two Germans (Benedikt Duda-wr 35, Ricardo Walther-wr 63), two Chinese (Zhou Qihao-wr 40, Liang Yanning-wr 47), one Swede (Jon Persson-wr 45), one Portuguese (Joao Geraldo-wr 51), one Finn (Benedek Olah-wr 61) and one Hungarian (Bence Majoros-wr 112) also won their respective matches. Indians Payas Jain and Wesley Do Rosario could not cross the round of 64 barrier, going down to Ricardo and Emmanuel respectively. Zhou Qihao (wr 40), Mizuki Oikawa (wr 75)

Yashaswini, Sreeja go down to top-50 opponents

In the women’s singles, two Indian youngsters besides Suhana, lost their round of 64 matches. Against the world number 38 Miyu Nagasaki, Yashaswini Ghorpade looked a bit out of depth as she went down 0-3 (3-11,5-11,9-11) to the formidable Japanese. Sreeja Akula was also up against higher ranked world number 39 Hana Goda of Egypt and went down 1-3 (2-11,13-11,11-8,11-2).

The other wins in the women’s singles went to the likes of Cheng-I-Ching (wr 31) of Chinese Taipei, Suthasini Sawettabut (wr 35) of Thailand, Liu Yangzi (wr 36) of Australia, Miwa Harimoto (wr 41) of Japan, Elizabeta Samara (wr 43) of Romania, Choi Hyojoo (wr 50) of Korea and Linda Bergstrom (wr 57) of Sweden.

Harmeet, Manav go through

Three Indian men’s doubles pairs including that of Sharath and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran lost their round of 16 matches to be eliminated from the tournament.

The only Indian pair to win on the day was that of Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar, who put it across fellow Indians Ronit Bhanja and Jeet Chandra 3-2 (9-11,11-8,8-11,11-6,11-5) in five close games. The pair of Manush Shah and Snehit Suravajjula also lost 1-3 to the French duo of Bastien Lambert and Jules Rolland.

Two Indian pairs win in women’s doubles

In the women’s doubles, two Indian pairs won while three others tasted defeat. Apart from Manika and Archana and Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee, the others could not make much headway.

Among those to make an exit were Sreeja Akula and Diya Chitale, who went down to the Chinese Taipei pair of Cheng I-Ching and Li Yu-Jhun 0-3 (6-11,4-11,2-11). Cheng is ranked as high as 31 in the world in women’s singles. Tejaswini Ghorpade and Suhana Saini were also ousted by the Korean duo of Nayeong Kim and Cheonhui Joo in four games (3-1:6-11,4-11,11-7,7-11).

A total of three Korean pairs along with two Indian and a pair each from Chinese Taipei, Japan and Sweden made the women’s doubles quarters.

Manika, Sathiyan lone winners in mixed doubles

In the mixed doubles as well, two Indian pairs, that of Wesley Do Rosario and Suhana Saini and Manav Thakkar and Archana Kamath lost to more accomplished and experienced opponents in the round of 16 itself, before Manika and Sathiyan gave the format some cheer.

Here too the Koreans were the most successful on the day as three of their combinations went through to the quarters. Two Japanese pairs also made it along with a French and a German pair.

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