Manika Batra notched up three successive wins but Achinta Sharath Kamal’s hopes of a World Cup berth were dashed on a disappointing day for the Indians at the ITTF-ATTF 30th Asian Cup table tennis tournament in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Manika will take on Japanese Miu Hirano in the challenge round for a quarterfinal berth, but for the two male players Sharath and Harmeet Desai, the challenge ended tonight at the TransStadia.
For Sharath, this must have been the worst Asia Cup outing, without a win in his group. However, he did manage to take a game off Jun Mizutani in his last match of the day.
Harmeet, on the other hand, can take heart from the fact that he did post one win out of three matches. In the first round, he beat Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz Al-Abbad 3-0 and in the second he ran Iran’s Nima Alamian close in the 2-3 loss.
Of course, it will be a tough ask for Manika, a first- timer in Asian Cup, to beat the player of the calibre of Hirano, who is seeded second here. But she will derive satisfaction of playing against the 17-year-old world no. 6
Manika shook off her early troubles to beat Qatari Aia Mohamed 13-11, 11-8, 11-7 and then Neda Shasavari 11-5, 11-8, 11-6 before defeating Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut 11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-8 in a thriller.
After she levelled score, the Indian took a three-point lead at 7-4 before allowing her rival a few liberties.
Manika’s luck too held as he got four crucial points, three off the net cord and one from the edge of the table.
The slow start to their league match saw the players cautious in their approach with leading changing hands regularly. After deuce, Manika missed one game point but won it on the second. From there, she never looked back as the former national champion the next two games easily.
For Sharath, he first went down to Korean Lee Sangsu 0-3 in men singles and then followed it up with the second round loss to Chinese Lin Gaoyuan in Group C matches. Later in the evening, Mizutani beat him 11-5, 11-3, 8-11, 11-8.
The Korean proved too hot for Sharath to handle as the ninth-seeded Indian had no answers to the fifth seed. He kept using the backhand drives forcefully down the line and clever forehands to the far left off Sharath.
There was an occasion when Sharth led briefly in the second game when power interruption broke his rhythm and the Korean was back in business as he shut out the Indian rather easily.
But the story of the morning session was Taipei’s Chen Chen-An who upset top-seed Chinese Fan Zhendong in men singles in Group A. The no. 9 seed, who had surprised then Olympic champion Zhang Jike a few years ago, outsmarted Fan.
The Chinese had made a fine recovery and went up 8-5. But he let Chen-An claw his way back and level at 8-8. A service error saw the Taipei paddler go 9-8 up and from there the match was going only one way as Chen-An won 13-11, 11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 11-8.
There was yet another upset when Chen Szu-Yu of Taipei shocked Feng Tianwei of Singapore 3-2 in a see-saw women’s singles battle. Feng, who is no stranger to India, was at Jaipur two years ago and had a top-of-the-podium finish beating Liu.