India’s Manika Batra lost to Austria’s Sofia Polcanova in straight games as her campaign in the Tokyo Olympics came to an end after a historic run to the third round.
Manika, who became the first Indian to win a round in the Olympics since 1992, went down 8-11, 2-11, 5-11, 7-11 in 28 minutes.
The 26-year-old Manika was outfoxed by an opponent who mixed her game very well, attacked the Indian on the forehand, and defended superbly. The Indian also made some unforced errors that the Austrian capitalised on.
Sofia, who is born in Chisinau, Moldova, moved to Austria at age 14 and obtained an Austrian passport in 2010. She took a handy 8-4 lead in the first game but Manika fought back, using her serve to cut down the gap to 8-9. But Sofia won the game when Manika sent a backhand cross-table shot wide.
The second was totally one-sided in favour of Sofia, who had a knee surgery in February this year but showed remarkable recovery to not only get fit for the Olympics but play at a high standard.
The third game was also one-sided as Sofia maintained her grip and did not allow the Indian to stage a comeback.
Manika, who was hampered by the absence of a coach in her corner as she has allegedly refused to take help of national coach Soumyadeep Roy because her personal coach Sanmay Paranjpe was not given accreditation to sit court-side, put up some fight in the fourth game but Sofia opened up an early 3-6 lead and maintained her stronghold on the game.
Manika, who uses the deceptive or trick-rubber style using the long pimple rubber that she switched to at the age of eight, failed to produce her best game against an opponent who was tactically well prepared to deal with her style and did not allow the Indian to impose her game.
This brings to an end Manika’s campaign at the Tokyo Olympics as he had lost in the mixed doubles, partnering Achanta Sharath Kamal, in the first round.
Kamal will take on world No. 1 Ma Long of China in the men’s singles third round on Tuesday.