WTT Star Contender Goa: Manika Batra stars with wins across the board, Sharath Kamal bows outMarch 2, 2023, Panaji
Star Indian women’s paddler Manika Batra led the Indian performance with three wins across formats as main draw engagements in the World Table Tennis Star Contender Goa got underway in Panaji at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium.
Manika, presently ranked world No 34, first won her women’s singles round of 64 match and then successively partnered Archana Kamath and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, to reach the quarter-finals of the women’s and mixed doubles respectively.
Sutirtha Mukherjee was the other Indian to win all her matches on the day, emerging triumphant in the women’s singles and doubles respectively.
However, in what will be heartbreak for home fans, Indian legend Achanta Sharath Kamal bowed out of the tournament after going down in both his singles and doubles matches. In the morning session, Sharath and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran lost their men’s doubles round of 16 match to Koreans Jaehyun An and Seungmin Cho 3-1 (11-6,11-7,7-11,11-8). Then in the final match of the day, rising Kazakh star Kirill Gerassimenko defeated the reigning Commonwealth Games champion in straight games (3-0: 11-8,11-7,11-8) to break Indian hearts.
Batra, the highest ranked Indian in women’s singles, got off to a flying start early in the first session, defeating 152nd ranked Englishwoman Ho Tin-Tin 3-0 (11-4,11-8,11-5). She then partnered Archana to a hard-fought 3-2 (8-11,9-11,11-5,11-6,12-10) win over the Hong Kong, China, pairing of Li Ching Wan and Zhu Chengzhu, after being 0-2 down at one stage to the qualifiers. Finally, in the evening session, she joined with Sathiyan to prevail over the Korean pair of Lim Jonghoon and Shin Yubin in four games (3-1: 11-7,3-11,11-6,11-6) in a mixed doubles match.
“I am really happy that this tournament WTT Star Contender is happening for the first time in India. Home crowd is here, and I am really happy that people will come to cheer me and cheer all the Indian players,” Batra said.
“Today I won my singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Mixed doubles were really tough as we have lost against them twice before. But this time we won, and I am really happy with that win. Let’s see what happens in this tournament. I’ll give my 100% and my best for my country and for myself.”
Sathiyan added, “Fantastic win. I think by far I would rate this as one of the best ever mixed doubles win. They are a very solid pair, technically they are very strong and they have been winning back to back tournaments in WTT events. So, to beat such a strong Korean pair is definitely one of the best ever wins for us”.
Sutirtha too put it across compatriot Suhana Saini in four games (11-7,11-7,8-11, before winning her opening doubles match with Ayhika Mukherjee. The Indian pair pulled off a creditable 3-0 (11-9,11-6,11-5) victory over the Egyptian-Polish pair of Natalia Bajor and Yousra Helmy to make the last eight. They now play the crack Swedish pair of Linda Bergstrom and Christina Karllberg, who were comfortable 3-0 winners against India’s Poymantee Baisya and Anannya Basak.
There was also a major upset in the men’s doubles where reigning world champions and second seeds Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Falck of Sweden, were ousted by the Japanese duo of Yuto Kuzikuri and Mizuki Oikawa 2-3 (12-14,11-2,9-11,11-4,9-11) in their first round of 16 match.
Falck (world No 36) had a day to forget as he also went down to Korean Daeseong Cho (world No 193) 3-0 (11-1,11-7,11-4) in his men’s singles round of 64 match. In another minor upset in the men’s singles Korean Jaehyun An (wr 49) beat Croat Tomislav Pucar (world No 46) in five games.
In the women’s singles, world No 30, Xiaona Shan of Germany went down to world No 120 Hayeong Kim 0-3 (11-8,14-12,11-5). In the afternoon session, Thai girl Orawan Paranang (world No 119) shocked Bernadette Szocs (world No 32) of Romania in five games. Then in the evening session, Korean Zion Lee (world No 71) upset American Lily Zhang (world No 27) 3-1 (12-10,11-8,7-11,12-10) in a pulsating encounter. Finally, another Korean Yang Haeun (world No 175), a former mixed doubles world champion and Asian Games bronze medalist, rolled back the years in the second-last match of the day, to down Swede Christina Kallberg (world No 69) in four games. The 29-year-old Yang has reached as high as 11 in the world ranking at one time.
With the big guns slated to come in on Thursday, the first day of the main tournament, otherwise largely went according to rankings and seedings.
In the men’s singles, Sathiyan (world No 41) took out a fighting Harmeet Desai (world No 142) in four games. He won the first easily at 11-4, but Harmeet came back to win the second 10-12 and then the third also went more than the distance as Sathiyan took it 13-11, before closing out the fourth at 11-9.
In the women’s singles, two Indian youngsters besides Suhana, lost their round of 64 matches. Against the world No 38 Miyu Nagasaki, Yashaswini Ghorpade went down 0-3 (3-11,5-11,9-11) to the formidable Japanese. Sreeja Akula was also up against higher ranked world number 39 Hana Goda of Egypt and went down 1-3 (2-11,13-11,11-8,11-2).
Three Indian men’s doubles pairs including that of Sharath and Sathiyan lost their round of 16 matches to be eliminated from the tournament.
The only Indian pair to win on the day was that of Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar, who put it across fellow Indians Ronit Bhanja and Jeet Chandra 3-2 (9-11,11-8,8-11,11-6,11-5) in five close games. The pair of Manush Shah and Snehit Suravajjula also lost 1-3 to the French duo of Bastien Lambert and Jules Rolland.
In the women’s doubles, two Indian pairs won while three others tasted defeat. Apart from Manika and Archana and Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee, the others could not make much headway.
Among those to make an exit were Sreeja Akula and Diya Chitale, who went down to the Chinese Taipei pair of Cheng I-Ching and Li Yu-Jhun 0-3 (6-11,4-11,2-11). Tejaswini Ghorpade and Suhana Saini were also ousted by the Korean duo of Nayeong Kim and Cheonhui Joo in four games (3-1:6-11,4-11,11-7,7-11).
In the mixed doubles as well, two Indian pairs, that of Wesley Do Rosario and Suhana Saini and Manav Thakkar and Archana Kamath lost to more accomplished and experienced opponents in the round of 16 itself, before Manika and Sathiyan kept Indian interests alive.