Event Section
Amalraj champion again, Manika wears maiden crown


Hyderabad, January 10: Anthony Amalraj emerged the men’s singles winner for the second but his opponent and a second-time finalist, G. Sathiyan, was not as lucky and he went down 2-3 in the final of the 77th Senior National and Inter-State Table Tennis Championships at the Kotla Vijay Bhaskara Reddy Indoor Stadium here today.


Just 40 minutes before that, PSPB’s Manika Batra created history winning her maiden women’s title, beating another new entrant in final, Pooja Sahasrabuddhle, also of PSPB.


If Amalraj was in a zone of his own, Sathiyan was not lagging behind. But what made the ultimate difference was Amalraj played percentage game, driving well and executing his shots with pin-pointed precision. On the other hand, Sathiyan seemed to be playing under enormous pressure and it was telling on his play.


The fortune of pendulum kept swinging with both players taking the alternate sets. But the fifth game changed it all when Amalraj ran off with a quick lead and mounting pressure on his rival. Sathiyan, despite taking time-off for a quick consultation with his coach and former national champion S. Raman, things did not go his way.


Once Amalraj had made it 3-2, it was just a matter of time for him before pulling the shutters down on Sathiyan. As is his practice, Amalraj let out a big blurt in celebration and kept himself to a limit this time before lifting the Maharaja Pithapuram Cup and taking home the Rs. 2.2 lakh prize money.




Nobody deserved to lose this nerve-wracking final. After all, both Manika Batra and Pooja Sahasrabuddhe were playing their maiden final with the obvious aim. Today, luck was on Manika’s side—both players missed two title-points each—as she sent a power-packed forehand to the extreme right of Pooja to her bewilderment. She tried hard to reach for the ball even as it swerved from its path and out of Pooja’s reach.


Manika let out a weak cry and raised her arms up in jubilation even as her Coach Sandeep Gupta wiped the tears rolling down his eyes and stood up to welcome his student. A gentle pat on her back and a small hug conveyed a million worlds from him.


Coming to the match, when Manika took the first set it looked things were going one way. But Pooja changed the course and kept her very much in the reckoning until the last point.


Fortunes fluctuated from one extreme to another and a guess was always hazarduous. Manika was 7-5 up but went 7-8 down in the decider. From there, she grew in confidence and attacked to pick two more points. At 10-8, she served twice for the title point but Pooja saved both for a deuce. With the service back with her, Pooja went 11-10 up and squandered her first match point. Against at 12-11, Manika saved one more. And that signified, for the second time, the Travancore Cup and the winner’s purse of Rs. 1.3 lakh slipping of her hands. Pooja, however, will go home with just half the amount.


“A great relief and am very happy to have won a senior title,” said Manika in a choked voice.



Sharath disappoints


Yet again Sharath Kamal bowed out in the semifinals and this time without a fight against G. Sathiyan. What was disappointing was the way the six-time national champion and the top seed here surrendered. Except for the opening game, Sharath led comfortably in every subsequent set—6-3, 6-2 and 6-0. Probably, his heart was willing for another fight back but not the body.


Sharath may have been in some discomfiture and that was very much evident because he was unable to move well and reach the ball. On the other hand, Sathiyan was growing in confidence with astonishing winner seven as Sharath dropped his guard. Every time he took the lead, he found Sathiyan making his way up and go over his rival.


Incidentally, this was Sathiyan’s second consecutive final entry. For Sharath, his last singles title came at Kolkata in 2010 and twice he had finished runner-up to Amalraj at Lucknow (2011) and Soumyajit Ghosh at Raipur (2012).


The 4-0 win would have provided Sathiyan another good platform to go for his maiden title which he missed at Pudhucherry last year, but his opponent Amalraj was even better when he dethroned national champion Soumyajit Ghosh with a 4-1 verdict.


Ghosh was blunted from the word go as Amalraj played brilliantly and did not yield even an inch to the defending champion.  What made the semifinal more interesting was the fast-paced game the two played with a lot of good rallies and brilliant winners.  In fact, some of those shots from both hissed past the edge of the table, keeping their fans on real tenterhooks.


In women’s semifinals, No. 1 Manika Batra blanked out Krittwika Sinha Roy in less than 25 minutes while Pooja Sahasrabuddhe had to bring out her best against the resolute Madhurika Patkar. However, the second named was unable to repeat her quarterfinal performance when she beat top-seed Mouma Das last evening. Yet, Madhurika tried to stage a comeback but Pooja never allowed her to close in.



Men’s Singles: Final: Anthony Amalraj (PSPB_ bt G. Sathiyan (PSPB) 4-2 (11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-4, 11-9);Semifinals: G. Sathiyan (PSPB) bt A. Sharath Kamal 4-0 (12-10, 11-8, 11-8, 11-3), Anthony Amalraj (PSPB) bt Soumyajit Ghosh (PSPB) 4-1 (11-6, 11-5, 5-11, 11-7, 13-11).  


DoublesFinal: Abhishek Yadav/Sudhanshu Grover (Raj) bt Arjun  Ghosh/Anirban Ghosh (WB) 3-0 (11-4, 11-9,11-9);Semifinals: Abhishek Yadav/Sudhanshu Grover (Raj) bt Nithin Thiruvengadam (CB)/Sourav Saha (PSPB) 11-9, 11-6, 11-2, Arjun  Ghosh/Anirban Ghosh (WB) bt Ravindra Kotiyan/Omkar Torgalkar (RSPB) 3-1 (11-9, 8-11, 11-9, 14-12).


Women’s Singles: Final: Manika Batra (PSPB) bt Pooja Sahasrabuddhe (PSPB) 4-3 (11-3, 8-11, 11-8, 3-11, 11-7, 7-11, 14-12); Semifinals: Manika Batra (PSPB) bt Krittwika Sinha Roy (WB) 4-0 (11-7, 11-5, 11-9, 11-7), Pooja Sahasrabuddhe (PSPB) bt Madhurika Patkar (Mah) 4-2 (8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 12-10, 11-7).


DoublesFinal: Krittwika Sinha Roy/Mousumi Paul (WB) bt Mouma Das/K. Shamini (PSPB) 3-2 (13-11, 7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 12-10); Semifinals: Mouma Das/K.Shamani (PSPB) bt Seraha Jocob/Maria Rony (KRL) 11-5, 11-8, 11-6, Mousmi Paul /Krittwika Sinha Roy (WB) bt Divya Deshpande/Madhurika Patkar (Mah) 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8.