Guwahati, September 28: It was one of the best men singles finals one had witnessed in a long time in a national ranking tournament. And when Siddhesh Pandey, the deserving winner lifted the glittering trophy and received the prize cheque of Rs. 77,000 at the 11Sports National Ranking (East Zone) Table Tennis Championships from chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the spectators stood in unison to applaud his efforts at R.G. Barua Sports Complex’s Indoor Stadium here today.
The unseeded paddler beat the original title-contender and top-seed Manav Thakkar from PSPB 4-3 in a marathon that lasted nearly an hour and what turned the tables against Manav was the way the Maharashtra lad staged his recovery in the sixth game—he was 4-7 down—to win 15-13 after saving two game points and level 3-3. This was probably the trigger for him to go all out in the decider.
But it was not an easy ride as Manav, the fighter gunning for his third title this season, fought and matched stroke for stroke with long rallies. At 10-all, it was anybody’s title, but Siddhesh made most of a chance that Manav presented and then served out to win his maiden title.
Suthirta Mukherjee was on song as she extended her rein to add the second crown this season, blanking out Madhurika Patkar 4-0. The Haryana paddler, who won her first title at Vijayawada a couple of weeks ago in the South Zone, went on the attack right from the word go to unsettle the former national champion.
After winning the first game with minimal points—Madhurika resistd well in the first—Suthirta went on a rampage from which Madhurika could not recover. Even her best weapon, the forehand topspin deserted and she made far too many errors at the net to hasten Suthirtha’s win. But credit must go to the Haryana girl who was focused on the job at hand and through sheer hard work achieved the positive result and carried home Rs. 66,000, the winner’s prize purse.
Manav, Prapti winners
Manav Thakkar and Prapti Sen claimed the Youth Boys and Youth Girls titles, beating Jeet Chandra (4-10 and Sreeja Akula (4-2), respectively. The consistency of Manav needs to be appreciated that he has held sway over the Boys’ title and Jeet became an easy prey in the final as the Haryana boy managed just a game off his prominent rival.
Prapti, after being down 1-2, had to propel her game against RBI’s Sreeja who seemed to have gained an upper hand. But when the West Bengal girl showed improvement and started attacking, Sreeja had little answer to those clever mix coming from Prapti.
Kaushani’s runs ends
The fine run of Kaushani Nath was halted when Suthirta beat her in straight games in the first semifinal. The one-sided match was totally in contrast to how Kaushani played with authority in her previous rounds, especially in the quarterfinals. In the second semifinal, the match went down to the wire with Madhurika making a resurgence, after being down 2-3, against Reeth Rishya, who was in her peak form in the tournament.
Madhurika had a cozy 2-0 lead, only to spill it as Reeth took a surge by taking the next three games, especially the fifth at 14-12. But Madhurika, who was doing all the right things in game 5, relaunched herself in the sixth to first survive and then blast her rival in the decider with minimum efforts.
Manav’s form was nothing new, nor his healthy rivalry against Manush Shah. In several of their previous meetings, left-handed Manush had been at the receiving end. And it was no surprise that the Gujarat lad couldn’t sustain the guile of Manav, who has a bagful of tricks and excellent temperament. But both players had the pace and shots with great long rallies, one of which took the breath of spectators. Manush managed to take two games of his rival from Surat but couldn’t stop his march into the final.
But the best cheers and clapping were reserved for Maharashtra’s Siddhesh Pande who beat an off-colour Arjun Ghosh 4-1. The unseeded Siddhesh was brilliant this morning and Arjun found it difficult to negotiate his scorching forehands, especially those sent down the flanks.
In Youth Girls singles, Prapti steamrolled her Delhi rival Vanshika Bhargava 4-0 while Sreeja Akula dropped a game before overcoming AAI girl, Moumita Dutta 4-1. In Youth Boys’ semifinals, it was Manav struggled a bit before hitting a good rhythm to beat Ronit Bhanka, also from AAI 4-2; in the other match, Haryana’s Jeet Chandra had the last laugh against Railways Anirban Ghosh, winning the match 4-2.
Women Singles: Final: Suthirta Mukherjee (Har) bt Madhurika Patkar (PSPB) 11-9, 11-8, 11-6, 11-6; Semi-finals: Sutirtha Mukherjee bt Kaushani Nathi (AAI) 11-6, 11-3, 11-5, 11-8; Madhurika Patkar bt Reeth Rishya (PSPB) 11-7, 11-7, 5-11, 5-11, 12-14, 11-7, 11-4.
Men Singles: Final: Siddhesh Pande (Mah) bt Manav Thakkar (PSPB) 11-8, 4-11, 11-8, 7-11, 8-11, 15-13, 12-10; Semi-finals: Manav Thakkar bt Manush Shah (Guj) 7-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-6; Siddhesh Pande (Mah) bt Arjun Ghosh (WB) 11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5.
Youth Girls Singles: Final: Prapti Sen (WB) bt Sreeja Akula (RBI) 11-6, 4-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-9, 11-5; Semi-finals: Prapti Sen bt Vanshika Bhargava (Del) 11-7, 11-7, 11-5, 11-9; Sreeja Akula bt Moumita Dutta (AAI) 11-6, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10.
Youth Boys Singles: Final: Manav Thakkar (PSPB) bt Jeet Chandra (Har) 10-12, 11-2, 11-5, 11-3, 11-6; Semi-finals: Manav Thakkar bt Ronit Bhanja (AAI) 9-11, 11-7, 13-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8; Jeet Chandra bt Anirban Ghosh (RSPB) 7-11, 12-10, 1-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8.
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