Event Section
Manika makes up for Sharath, Sathiyan-less event


Vijayawada, September 5: After the recent exploits of Indian table tennis teams, especially at the Asian Games in Jakarta, the fan bases of certain individuals have multiplied. So much so, any national ranking event minus the celebrities like A. Sharath Kamal and G. Sathiyan becomes infructuous from the point of view of organizers. They have pulled out of the tournament, citing personal reasons.


But superstar Manika Batra’s appearance at the 11Sports National Ranking (South Zone) Table Tennis Championships, beginning at the Municipal Indoor Hall here from tomorrow, along with the rest of the men and women squads have somewhat, restored the reputation and significance of a national event which is crucial for players who want to be on top of the ranking table all the time and maintain their form. The participation of Anthony Amalraj, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar is, indeed, a plus and makes the competition fierce and healthy.


Their participation has also, somewhat, restored the reputation and significance of a national event which is crucial for players who want to be on top of the ranking table all the time and maintain their form.


Manav Thakkar, who is leading the chart with 430 points in men ranking, will be as hot a contender as Amalraj, who just a spot behind him with 320 points. The next best is Arjun Ghosh, who is 200 points behind the leader. That speaks volumes of how the biggies have struggled at home.


But, with the federation, SAI and the sports ministry willing to invest on the future and finding ways and means to prepare the youngsters, these national ranking events are the best platforms for them to showcase their talent. And, fortunately, more and more young paddlers are very competitive and this augurs well for Indian table tennis.


Another wonderful aspect about these domestic events is how the youth and junior paddlers have picked up the thread from where the stars have left it off. They are ready for the challenges thrown at them and, on their day, can upset the best in business as we saw SFR Snehit doing against Sharath at Panchkula and to Ronit Bhanja at the Insitutional meet at Coimbatore.


Manika has a lone title-winning performance this season when she competed at the North Zone as she skipped the Central Zone tournament. She has a real fight at hand with Pooja Shasrabuddhe, the winner of Central Zone crown, and Divya Deshpande, who became the institutional champion, to maintain her to top-chart position with 400 points.  


and those juniors who are trying to up the ante by participating in women singles. Some qualifiers did themselves proud with sterling performances in the North Zone. Though an off-colour Sutirtha Mukherjee is just behind her on 300 points, with young Archana Kamath and Madhurika Patkar lurking around the corner, the contest for women singles title could be a toss-up between Manika and Pooja.


The open draw, introduced a couple of seasons ago, has given a level-playing field for young guns to make the competition lively. Apart from this, the two-player per group qualification system has gained in popularity, giving the participants a bigger scope to get into the main draw.  


The draw for top 16 men and eight women seeds, who get direct entries into the second stage, will be picked in the evening at the hall. Eight players each in Youth and Junior Boys and Girls will also gain direct entry in stage 2.  


With 10 percent increase in prize from this zonal, the participants would be attracted by the decent prize purse, totalling nearly Rs. 7.47 lakh, which is up for grab. The men singles winner will receive Rs. 77,000 while the women singles winner takes home Rs. 66,000.


The competition department beings the championships with Cadet and Sub-Junior, Junior, Youth events, followed by the men and women events. The finals of the men and women singles are slated for next Wednesday.


According to competition manager N. Ganeshan, 12 STAG tables and flooring will be used. Mangesh Mopkar gets his third chance as chief referee with deputies A. Satheese and DVSY Sarma to assist him. They will have the services of 40 Blue Badge, international and national referees to play around with.


Incidentally, APTTA which is hosting the event, held the Cadet and Sub-Junior Nationals at the same venue some 10 years ago.