Teenagers rule the roost as Manika, Sutirtha bow out -
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Teenagers rule the roost as Manika, Sutirtha bow out

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Khel Today Bureau 

Panaji, Goa: Teenage power was on full display at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium in Taleigao on day five of the WTT Star Contender Goa, even as Indian hopes were snuffed out with both Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee going down in their round of 16 matches. First, Chinese 17-year-old Lin Shidong took out giant-killing Korean Cho Daeseong 3-2 (9-11,11-5,11-9,11-5,11-4), then 14-year-old Japanese sensation Miwa Harimoto reached two finals and the women’s singles quarters, before 16-year-old French talent Felix Lebrun packed off Swedish world number (wr) #4 Truls Moregard 3-1(11-7,11-8,7-11,11-7) in the final match of the evening session, to confirm teenager’s day at the first ever Indian WTT series event. The highlights of day six Saturday will be the two men’s and women’s doubles semi-finals and the mixed doubles final, before four finals conclude the tournament on Sunday.

WTT Star Contender Goa is being hosted by STUPA Sport Analytics, the official data partners for WTT and International Table Tennis Federation, along with the Government of Goa. Sports Authority of Goa and Dream Foundation are the event partners while Table Tennis Federation of India are the supporting partners.

Indian hopes dashed

Sutirtha Mukherjee and Manika Batra, the two surviving home country hopes, met with superior opponents on the day to bow out of the women’s singles in the last 16 stage. Sutirtha who played in the afternoon, came up well-short against the experience and guile of Portuguese Fu Yu (wr #19) in her last 16 match. The veteran with the pen-hold grip pulled off a 3-0 (11-5,11-7,11-5) win to move to the quarters. This was the second time Sutirtha has lost to Fu.

Then in the evening session Manika was up against Qian Tanyi (wr #20) of China and went down 1-3 (6-11,3-11,11-9,11-7). Manika did put up a fight even winning a close third game, but the Chinese was clearly in control of the match from the outset.

She said after the match, “I am done with my tournament. I think I just gave my best in this tournament – Star Contender Goa. But winning and losing is a part of every athlete’s life. I have learnt many things from my game. I will just work on that and I will just give my 100%. I will work hard for my next tournament for my country.”

Five Chinese paddlers in singles quarters

The teenaged Lin in-fact led a group of five Chinese paddlers into the men’s and women’s singles quarter-finals. Liang Jungkun (wr #7), a winner of five international titles besides multiple world championship medals, made the last eight with a comfortable 3-0 (8/4/8) result against Hungarian Bence Majoros. He will meet countryman Lin Gaoyuan (wr #12), who defeated Swede Kristian Karlsson (wr #19) 3-2 (8-11,11-7,9-11,11-6,11-7) in a dogfight.

In a battle of two Chinese in the women’s singles, top seeded Wang Yidi (wr #4) bossed Kuai Man (wr #26) 3-1(11-9,11-3,10-12,11-3) to join compatriot Qian in the last eight.

Miwa in two-finals

The day also belonged to 14-year-old Japanese sensation Miwa Harimoto, the younger sibling of men’s world number four Tomakazu Harimoto, as she made both the mixed and women’s doubles finals and also made it through to the women’s singles quarter-finals. She won the singles last 16 match in the evening over higher ranked Chen Szu-Yu of Chinese Taipei in four games (3-1:11-8,10-12,11-5,14-12).

Earlier in the day, she had partnered Shunsuke Togami to storm into the finals of the mixed doubles, blanking the French pair of Emmanuel Lebesson and Jia Nan Yuan 3-0 (11-9,13-11,11-8) in three hard-fought games. However, Miwa’s elder brother Tomokazu partnering world number six Hina Hayata, were beaten by Koreans Jang Woojin and Jeon Jihee 2-3 (11-6,11-9,8-11,8-11,8-11), nullifying the possibility of a sibling clash in the finals.

Miwa was generous enough at a young age to credit her partner after the win saying,” I was nervous at first. But Togami motivated me a lot which allowed me to play my game very easily.”

She then also made the women’s doubles final along with Miyu Nagasaki, when they beat the Swedish pair of Linda Bergstrom and Christina Kallberg 11-5,12-10,11-2. There they meet the Chinese Taipei pair of Cheng-I-Ching and Li Yu-Jhun, who were 3-2 (9-11,11-4,11-7,6-11,11-7) semi-final winners over Koreans Choi Hyojoo and Lee Zion.

Togami also in two-finals

Miwa’s mixed doubles partner Shunzuke Togami, also made it to two finals on the day. In the men’s doubles he partnered Yukiya Uda to defeat Koreans Jang Woojin and Lim Jonghoon 3-2 (11-5,3-11,11-3,6-11,11-8) in their semi-final. Togami and Uda will meet the fourth seeded Koreans An Jaehyun and Cho Seungmin, who went through with a 3-1 (11-7,5-11,11-8,11-6) victory over yet another Japanese pair, Yuto Kizukuri and Mizuki Oikawa.

Other winners on the day

Among the other winners of the day was yet another popular teenager, the Japanese 19-year-old world number four Tomokazu Harimoto, who carried on his rousing form in the tournament to dispatch Simon Gauzy (wr #32) of France in three straight games and take his place in the quarters. Also going through to last eight in the men’s singles was Chinese Taipei’s world number eight Lin Yun-Ju and Koreans, Jang Woojin and An Jaehyun.

In the women’s singles German world number 10 Ying Han, moved to the last eight with a comprehensive 3-0 (11-9,11-2,12-10) win over Thai qualifier Suthasini Sawettabut. Meanwhile world number 11 Xiaoxin Yang of Monaco had to come from two games down to beat China’s Liu Weishan (wr #22) 3-2 (9-11,9-11,11-8,14-12,11-7) to move to the quarters. Also making it through was Miyu Hirano (wr #24) of Japan and Cheng-I-Ching (wr #31) of Chinese Taipei.

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