Asian TT: Manika shines; Desai, Kamal crash out

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Ahmedabad, Sep 15 (IANS) Indias Manika Batra enjoyed a superb start to her campaign at the 30th Asian Cup table tennis tournament, winning all three round robin group matches in the womens singles category here on Friday.

The World No.119 will now compete in the play-offs for a place in the quarter-finals. She will face World No.6 Miu Hirano of Japan for a place in the last eight stage. Hirano finished second in Group A.

Placed in Group D, Manika struggled to get going in the early stages of her opening match against Aia Mohamed of Qatar before winning 13-11, 11-8, 11-7.

Both players were cautious in their approach in the first game with the lead 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 clinched the next two games easily. Manika made it two out of two after defeating Neda Shahsavari of Iran 11-5, 11-8, 11-6.

It was a disappointing day for India in the men’s singles category, as both Harmeet Desai and Achanta Sharath Kamal crashed out of the competition.

Desai gave a good fight but could not qualify for the next stage. He outplayed Abdulaziz Al-Abbad of Saudi Arabia 11-6, 12-10, 11-7 in his opening match.

Harmeet, who had fever two days ago, seemed to have recovered well when he took on his Saudi rival. The latter did try to recover a bit in the second game and even managed to stretch Harmeet, but beyond that he could not stop the Indian.

In his second match against Nima Alamian of Iran, Desai rallied from two games down to push the match into the decider with some gritty display but unfortunately his efforts were not good enough.

With the deciding game locked at 9-9, the Iranian prevailed in the battle of nerves to win 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 12-10.

Desai then lost 5-11, 6-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-4 to Padasak Tanviriyavechakul of Thailand in his third and final group match to crash out of contention.

Meanwhile, it was a day to forget for veteran Indian Achanta Sharath Kamal as he lost all his first round men’s singles matches.

The rather off-colour local star was clearly out of his depths among some of the top players in the continent, going down by straight games in all three round robin matches in Group C.

Sharath was off to a poor start, going down 5-11, 7-11, 9-11 to Lee Sangsu of South Korea in his first match. The 47th-ranked Indian fought hard but was no match for the World No. 14 Korean.

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 Sharath 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.

The Indian was no match for Lin Gaoyuan of China in his second match, losing by a comprehensive 1-11, 6-11, 3-11 margin. Sharath produced a much better performance in the second game but failed to match the World No.29.

The Chinese led in the second game as well before Sharath levelled at 4-4. But the Chinese took three consecutive points to regain the advantage. Lin continued to dominate outclassing the Indian in the third game to close out an easy win.

Sharath won his only game of the day against Wolrd No.8 Jun Mizutani of Japan in his third group match but that was never going to be enough as he went down 5-11, 3-11, 11-8, 8-11.

Meanwhile Chinese star Fan Zhendong, the highest ranked competitor in the men’s singles section at World No.2, was forced to struggle during the group stage. The reigning World Cup champion was shocked by World No.45 Chen Chien-An of Chinese Taipei.

Chen struggled after a strong start before carving out a 13-11, 11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 11-8 win. Fan however, bounced back with a 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10 verdict over Koki Niwa of Japan.

–IANS

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