Sharath, Manika keeping Indian hopes alive

Sharath, Manika keeping Indian hopes alive

Sharath, Manika keeping Indian hopes alive
Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra were the only Indian paddlers who survived to live another day in the singles events of the 2017 World Table Tennis Championships here. The other six fell by the wayside, bowing out in the first round of the main draw yesterday evening.

All the Indian paddlers were given direct entries in the main draw, comprising 64 seeded players and 32, taken in on the basis of their world rankings, while another 32 made the cut through qualifications to make it a 128-player draw in both the men and women singles.

Among the Indians, Sharath, Soumyajit Ghosh and Manika were seeded but the rest got their slots because of their rankings.

It was a day of mixed bag for the Indians as Ayhika Mukherjee went down 0-4 to Japanese Hitomi Sato first in the morning when the Japanese won 11-4, 11-5, 11-4, 11-3. But Manika Batra restored the pride when she disposed of Poland's Klaudia Kusinska quickly with a 11-6, 11-6, 11-3, 11-5 win.

Even as the Indian camp was celebrating Manika’s entry into the round of 64, the shocking news of Mouma Das and Madhurika Patkar, national champion, exiting in the first round to Austria’s Liu Jia and Lay Jian Fang of Australia arrived.

Mouma lost 1-4 (11-7, 11-7, 10-12, 11-7, 11-5) while Madhurika went down 0-4 (8-11, 6-11, 5-11, 7-11). Except for Ayhika, who was drawn in the first quarter, all the three players were drawn in the third quarter.

The sagging morale of the Indians worsened when Soumyajit Ghosh, drawn in the first quarter, lost after putting up a good fight to Sweden's Anton Kallberg. The Indian, who is seeded 62 and ranked 83 in the world, lost to the 97 ranked Swede 2-4 (8-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-9, 12-14, 10-12) in a tough contest. The fifth game proved very crucial, particularly because Ghosh was doing everything right and was on the verge of winning three straight games.

Like in the women singles, Sharath raised his game to a different level and easily beat Spain’s Jesus Cantero 4-1 (11 -7,11-9,6-11,11-8,11-8). The top-ranked Indian, who is seeded 43, will next take on the Austrian Daniel Habesohn in the round of 64 today.

The Austrian accounted for Japanese Kenta Matsudaira (4- 3) 11-7, 13-11,6-11,10-12,11-13,11-7,8-11 in one of the top fights on the day to send the 18th seed packing. The Austrian is ranked 118 while the Japanese is ranked 18 in the world.

Later Harmeet Desai and G Sathiyan, too, bowed out when Brazilian Hugo Calderano beat Harmeet 11-8, 11-8, 11-5,11- 13,11-4 and Romanian Hunor Szocs downed Sathiyan 11-8,9-11,11 -7,11-8,11-8.

Meanwhile, the Indian doubles pair of Sharath Kamal and G. Sathiyan moved into the round of 32 beating the English duo of Lian Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall 4-2 (10-12, 11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 15-13,11-6). But the next round is very alarming for the Indian combine as they will clash with one of the toughest adversaries in Ma Long and Timo Boll, the Chinese-Germany combination. Incidentally, Sharath and Timo Boll play for the same Germany club Borussia Düsseldorf.

Similarly, Manika Batra and Mouma Das combined well in the round of 62 to earn a meeting against the Russian pair of Yana Noskova and M Tailakova in the round of 32.