Sathiyanmev jayate! Grand opening for Suthirtha
Arjun Ghosh had lost the battle off the table than on it. His trademark focus and intensity was missing, thanks to a clinical G. Sathiyan who added another piece of silverware to his kitty when he beat the West Bengal lad 4-0 in less than 30 minutes in the 11Even Sports National Ranking (Central Zone) Table Tennis Championships at Abhay Prashad Indoor Stadium here today.
Somewhat similar to men singles final was the women final which ended without a whimper when No. 2 seed Suthirtha Mukherjee from West Bengal steamrolled Sreeja Akula 4-1, after the Telangana girl has had a dream run at Indore.
Arjun was definitely missing the cutting-edge mechanics which worked against his other opponents earlier. Sathiyan, a brainy veteran in such situations, not just controlled pace but unleashed his whipping backhands and qualitatively varied his serves. Unable to cope with his slow serves and comprehend with a few tricky ones, Arjun wilted committing far too many mistakes and losing the plot.
In the end, Sathiyan admitted that it had become rather easy. “I expected a good fight but the dice rolled in my favour,” said Sathiyan with his trademark smile.
WORLD UPSIDE DOWN
Just in one session, the world came upside down for the talented Sreeja. Until the final, she was able to keep the ball on table and force her opponents, as big as Olympian Manika Batra, fifth seed Mousumi Paul and reigning national champion Madhurika Patkar, play according to her terms. But in the final, Suthirtha several notches better, particularly when the inexperienced Sreeja consistently put the ball out.
That was the biggest mistake she committed at crucial times in the final allowing the West Bengal girl gain ascendancy and grow in confidence. Perhaps overawed by the occasion, the little girl from Telangana found her backhand deserting her while it worked well for Suthirtha, who had a great season last year, including winning the Institutional crown. Sreeja did offer resistance in the fifth game but it was too late and too little.
However, a big pat came from foreign coach Massimo Costantini who said that he was very much impressed with Sreeja. “A good prospect for the future of Indian table tennis. She played truly well and to her potential,” he said. There cannot be a bigger compliment than the one coming as it did from India’s national coach. As she grows Sreeja is bound to go places, provided she keeps her attitude right and priorities clear.
SELENA, RONIT TOP YOUTH
A second national ranking title may have come Selenadeepthi Selvakumar’s way after three years when she upset top-seed Archana Kamath, who is also ranked No. 25 in the world, 4-3. In fact, Selena, who has recently been inducted by the Airports Authority of India for a scholarship, was too brilliant on the day when the seasoned Archana played a subdued game. Selena, who had taken the issue to the decider in all the three matches, including the final, was trailing 0-3. That was when her coach Ravi Venkatesh called for time-out and it worked wonders for his ward.
Soon after resumption, Selena claimed four points on the trot before allowing a solitary point to her rival. Thereafter, it was Selena all the way as she reeled off seven in a row to bag a major title in her career. “I have been playing consistently well but a title had always eluded me. I am happy I pulled it off today, particularly after the two energy-sapping quarterfinal and semifinal matches,” said the drained out Chennai girl.
For the first time in several seasons, Manav Thakkar will return home without a trophy. The Youth National champion went down to West Bengal’s Ronit Bhanja 2-4 in a thriller which had all the ingredients of an explosive final. With his Chinese coach having gone back home, sorely missed him for the first time Manav.
But Ronit, who has a youth title to his name from West Zone last year at Rajkot, must be given full credit for the way he played every time when Manav looked like coming back in the match, which was full of fast, long rallies with precision hitting. Both the fifth and sixth games had quite a few deuces before Manav getting a lease of life in the fifth at 14-12 and then in the sixth when Ronit returned the compliment to grab the title.
Men Singles: Final: G. Sathiyan (PSPB) bt Arjun Ghosh (WB) 4-0 (11-5, 11-6, 11-6, 11-2); Semifinals: G. Sathiyan bt Harmeet Desai 4-2 (11-5, 6-11, 13-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-6), Arjun Ghosh bt Raj Mondal 4-1 (11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9).
Women Singles: Final: Suthirtha Mukherjee (WB) bt Sreeja Akula (TELG) 4-1 (11-4, 5-11, 11-6, 11-4, 12-10); Semifinals: Sreeja Akula bt Madhurika Patkar 4-3 (11-2, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 1-11, 9-11, 11-9), Suthirtha Mukherjee bt 4-3 (8-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8, 12-14, 11-6, 11-3).
Youth Boys Singles: Final: Ronit Bhanja (WB) bt Manav Thakkar (PSPB) 4-2 (11-4, 7-11, 13-11, 11-4, 12-14, 14-12); Semifinals: Manav Thakkar bt Ravindra Kotiyan 4-3 (11-6, 10-12, 11-4, 5-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-8), Ronit Bhanja bt 4-0 (11-8, 11-9, 11-9, 13-11.
Youth Girls Singles: Final: Selenadeepthi Selvakumar (TN) bt Archana Kamath (PSPB) 4-3 (11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 9-11, 11-4); Semifinals:Archana Kamath bt Priyadarshini Das 4-0 (11-8, 11-6, 11-5, 11-8), Selenadeepthi Selvakumar bt Moumita Dutta 4-3 (11-4,8-11, 10-12, 10-12, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6).