Dharwad, September 12: A great achievement, indeed, for Nithyashree Mani of Chennai Achievers. Rising like a phoenix, she dumped Munmun Kundu 4-3 to lift her first Sub-Junior Girls trophy, even as Payas Jain failed to defend the Boys title he won at Indore, going down to H. Jeho of Petroleum Sports Promotion Board Academy 4-3 in the LIC-IOC All India National Ranking Table Tennis Championships (South Zone) at the District Indoor Stadium on the concluding day here today.
In the girls’ final, the Tamil Nadu paddler was down and out with her West Bengal opponent holding two match points in the fourth game. From there, an Amalraj-like resurrection the other day saw Nithyashree go from strength to strength. But nothing was certain as Munmun again held three match points in the fifth game, only to let the TN girl off the hook.
Slowly clawing her way back, Nithyashree won five straight points to win 12-10 and when it came to the decider, it was anybody’s match. Of course, the West Bengal girl had an upper hand as she led 8-4 but Nithyashree was not the one to pull down the shutters yet. Determined as she was, the pressure was palpable on Munmun and a few unforced errors helped Nithyashree to sever for her first match point. But she could not add it to account and fortunes started fluctuating, bringing everyone to the edge of the seat.
At 13-12 Munmun Kundu had her first match point but on the fourth Nithyashree sealed her rival’s fate. Overall, the West Bengal girl held nine match points from game four but the day definitely belonged to the Tamil Nadu girl who kept her cool, reeling off several forehand winners to the far corner, unmindful of the crunch situation.
Overawed by the occasion, Nithyashree had fewer words to express after a laboured win but her coach Subin Kumar supplemented her. “More than she I was very nervous when she missed three match points in the decider. But knowing her nature well, I knew say was capable of pulling it off,” said Subin.
Incidentally, Munmun Kundu had reached the semifinals at Indore.
In Sub-Junior Boys final, it was a nice trade-off between Jeho and Payas. There was little to choose between the two except that one is a defensive player and the other a clean attacker. Payas led 3-2 and looked like sewing it up in the sixth when he led by a couple of points. But Jeho, who never gives up easily, fought his way back and levelled the score. In the decider, a visibly tired Payas had very little answer to the Ajmer Academy boy’s defensive tactics as the Delhi boy threw in the towel.
WINNING IS A HABIT
Winning is a habit for both Presyesh Raj of Tamil Nadu and Suhana Saini of Haryana. Preyesh, who won five zonal titles, was unfortunate not to win the Cadet Nationals as he bowed out in the semi-finals last year. But Suhana went on to wear the crown at Siliguri.
They began this season’s campaign in right earnest and claimed the titles at Indore (Central Zone) and picking up from where they had left off, Presyesh accounted for Shantesh Mapsekar of Goa 4-1. Preyesh, who is never afraid to attack, made all his moves correct and despite losing the first game to Shantesh picked up moment from the second to finish in style. The boy from Goa, who had an easy semifinal, was found wanting against the Tamil Nadu boy.
Suhana, in her age group, puts in cent percent efforts to make them count. She was a bit nervy in the semifinal against Arya Songadkar of Maharashtra, who attacked well, especially on the forehand, to give a bit of jot to the Haryana girl.
But once she crossed that stumbling block, she was the usual free-flowing type against Tamil Nadu’s Nehal Venkatasamy in the final and steamrolled her opponent in less than 20 minutes. Effective with her blocks and forehands, Suhana reeled off several winners, making the final a one-sided affair. Nehal, who did her bit to come back in the fourth game, taking eight points off her rival, but it was too little and too late in the day.
Sub-Junior Boys Singles: Final: H.Jeho (PSPBA) bt Payas Jain (Del) 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 11-4; Semi-finals: H. Jeho bt Hrishikesh Malhotra (Mah) 11-1, 7-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-7, Payas Jain bt Jayabrata Bhattcharjee (NB) 12-14, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6.
Sub-Junior Girls Singles: Final: Nithyashree Mai (TN) bt Munmun Kundu (WB) 4-11, 2-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8, 12-10, 15-13; Semi-finals: Nithyshree Mani bt Tisha Kohli (Del) 11-4, 11-8, 11-4, 13-11, Munmun Kundu bt Mihika Rohira (Mah) 11-5, 11-6, 8-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9.
Cadet Boys Singles: Final: S. Preyesh Raj (TN) bt Shantesh Mapsekar (Goa) 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-5; Semi-finals: S. Preyesh Raj bt Muh Rajasekara (TN) 12-14, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4, Shantesh Mapsekar bt Amav Aggarwal (PSPBA) 11-7, 11-8, 11-9.
Cadet Girls Singles: Final: Suhana Saini (Har) bt Nehal Venkatasamy (TN) 11-5, 11-6, 11-1, 11-8; Semi-finals: Suhana Saini bt Arya Songadkar (Mah) 8-11, 11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 11-7, Nehal Venkatasamy bt Vartica Bharti (UP) 11-6, 11-6, 11-7.
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