Manika, Manav start UTT’s Kolkata leg with thrilling wins

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Kolkata, June 26 (IANS) Indian stars Manika Batra and Manav Thakkar recorded thrilling victories over higher-ranked rivals to flag off the Kolkata leg of Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) at the Netaji Indoor Sports Stadium here on Tuesday.

Manika returned to her winning ways with a fighting 2-1 (7-11, 11-9, 11-10) victory over World No. 20 Lee Ho Ching to help Dabang Smashers gain an early lead against Empowerji Challengers.

But teen sensation Thakkar shocked World No. 27 Yoshida Masaki 2-1 (11-10, 5-11, 11-9) to help Challengers level the scores 3-3 after two matches.

The poster girl of Indian table tennis, ranked World No. 80, lost the first game 7-11 but came back in the second 11-9 by using her forehand with telling effect.

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In the decider, the 23-year-old Indian was trailing 7-10 but she claimed four points on the trot to turn the tables on her rival from Hong Kong.

The 18-year-old Thakkar matched his Japanese opponent in long rallies and shot-making to eke out an 11-10 win in the first game. But Masaki bounced back in the second to win 11-5. In the third,Thakkar, ranked 216 places below Masaki, upped the ante and held his nerve to clinch the game (11-9) and match.

It has been a sensational run this season for Manika, who claimed World No. 18 Sofia Polcanova of Warriors TTC in her first match before upsetting Falcons’ Matilda Ekholm (World No. 30) and then RP-SG Mavericks’ Sabine Winter (World No. 60).

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World No. 19 Elizabeta Samara of Maharashtra United ended her winning run but she has bounced back superbly by defeating Lee Ho Chinh and is now primed for the knockouts ahead.

–IANS

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