Event Section
Amalraj and Pooja in no mood to relent


Greater Noida, November 5: Both Anthony Amalraj and Pooja Sahasrabuddhe are on a roll. Amalraj may be lying just behind leader G. Sathiyan in national ranking in men singles but Pooja, with two titles, is on top of the ladder after three zonal events. And their presence at the 11Sports National Ranking Championships (North), beginning at the Gautam Buddha University hall here tomorrow, reassures the seriousness they attach to national ranking tournaments.


And this will be the occasion for Amalraj, who is playing with an uncluttered mind, to go past Sathiyan and be the first on the chart as A. Sharath Kamal, G. Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty and Soumyajit Ghosh have given a skip to the tournament here. Both Sharatah, who is joint No. 6, and current leader Sathiyan are far better placed than Ghosh, who is joint 14, and he needs to do a lot to topple the already well-entrenched PSPB colleagues.


Ghosh played his first ranking tournament at Siliguri but couldn’t do much against an in-form and confident Amalraj, the eventual title winner, and bowed out in the pre-quarters. Sanil, ranked No. 8, did well until the round of 16 but couldn’t get past Harmeet Desai in the quarterfinals. Harmeet, on the other hand, had to be content with the silver and is third on the ranking list.


With the man from Surat, too, missing the whole spotlight will be on Amalraj with other youngsters breathing down their necks, including Manav Thakkar, who had a very good outing in the YOG Qualifications for Asia which concluded today along with Arjun Ghosh and Raj Mondal. The 750-plus entries for the North Zone assume importance for many participants, including those on the brink.


Fortunately, there are no such stresses in women singles except Pooja aiming to strengthen her position while Manika Batra, runner-up at Siliguri, Madhurika Patkar, Suthirtha Mukherjee, Mouma Das and Ankita Das closely following to stop her march.


The introduction of draw of 128 in men and women categories has given leverage to players that have been on the periphery. Those finishing second in their groups, too, can gain entry into the main draw instead of just one until last year. This has come as a big life-support to many top-ranked, seasoned players, who had benefited in earlier tournaments.


The North Zone events get underway with men and women singles qualifications and they should arouse interests among the junior paddlers who will be waiting in the wings to chance their wrists. The Youth, Junior, Sub-Junior and Cadet qualifications that follow will be equally invigorating as matches have been very competitive in recent years. One expects the same aura to continue in the group stages and in the main draw.


Archana, who won the junior girls title at Siliguri, should be in a better frame of mind after finishing fifth in the YOG Qualifications event; similarly,  Selenadeepthi Selvakumar and Prapti Sen, who were declared joint winners in Youth Girls at Siliguri will get an opportunity to renew their battle for possession of the trophy.


The event here and the one follows at Thane (Wes Zone) will be crucial for the juniors, barring Manav and Archana, as selectors will go into a huddle to pick the squad for the World Juniors in Italy. So a good performance by the juniors in the remaining zonal events will be a key to get a look-in by selectors.


Competition Manager Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer was pleased at the prospect of using 20 tables—a first of its kind in a domestic event—said that Attoor Satheese will be the chief referee with a host of deputy and assistant referees and 40-odd technical officials that include Blue Badge, International and National umpires.


He also said that Stag tables and balls (senior, youth and junior) and GKI balls (for sub-junior and Cadet will be used for the championships, the formal inauguration of which will take place at 5 p.m. tomorrow.