Paddlers Amalraj, Madhurika triumph at North Zone tourney

Chandigarh, June 30 (IANS) Top-seeded Anthony Amalraj defeated sixth seed Sanil Shetty 4-2 to win the men’s singles title while No.3 seed Madhurika Patkar beat fourth-seeded Pooja Sahasrabuddhe 4-2 in the women’s singles final at the North Zone Table Tennis Championships at the Panjab University Gymnasium Indoor Hall here on Thursday.

Amalraj’s title winning efforts fetched him Rs 66,000 while Madhurika walked away with Rs 55,000.

Amalraj, who had won two zonal titles last year, began well and kept himself in the hunt throughout, particularly after the semi-final win over G. Sathiyan 4-3. The final against southpaw Sanil Shetty was rather easy despite the two going at a good pace.

Though Amalraj opened with a first-game loss, he was quick enough size up his rival’s game plan and hit the groove nicely. In the fourth, however, Shetty made good efforts to put up some fight and even managed to extend Amalraj a bit.

But once Amalraj led 3-1, it was all over bar the shouting for Shetty as he was allowed the liberty of just two points in the fifth game.

In the women’s section, it was a good beginning to the season by Madhurika. As Madhuri later admitted, she had a nervous second-round start against six-time national champion Paulomi Ghatak.

Madhurika passed that test and followed it up with a tough match against Suthirtha Mukherjee in the quarter-finals earlier in the day. Having crossed the two barriers, it was a little easy for the determined PSPB player, even though Pooja made her work for points.

“I thought the second round match against Paulomi was tough because she is such an experienced player I had to be careful. Suthirtha too played well and was posing a lot of problems. But those two wins gave me the confidence in the final as I was determined not to let the trophy go off my hands,” Madhurika said.

The biggest upset of the day, however, was that of top-seed Manika Batra, who is also the reigning national champion. After the exit of second seed Mouma Das on Wednesday, Manika followed her on Thursday.

Losing in early rounds was not a big sin, but the way she went down to Pooja, without even putting up a semblance of fight surprised everyone. But one cannot take away the credit from Pooja as she had a nice rhythm going her way. However hard Manka tried, she could not make a match of it.

In the junior ranks, Manav Thakkar, who had won the Junior Boys title on Wednesday, beat West Bengal’s Arjun Ghosh 4-1 in the Youth Boys final to complete a double.

The PSPB Academy boy, who had missed the title narrowly last time, made it his own with a clinical performance. Arjun had won the title last year in the West Zone event at Thane.

Archana Kamath, who could not defend the Junior title, made amends to regain the Youth Girls title beating her AAI colleague Sreeja Akula 4-1. Archana had won the Youth title at Agra in the same event two seasons ago.

“I was a bit upset when I could not progress in the junior event. I was feeling the pressure. But I am happy I could hit it off in the Youth final. I had a nice flow and getting my strokes right,” Archana said.

–IANS

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