WTT Star Contender Doha: Manika Batra progresses to second round

Manika Batra won her first-round match in straight games while G Sathiyan and Sharath Kamal launched comebacks to take victory in Doha.

By Rahul Venkat

Commonwealth Games gold medallist Manika Batra advanced to the Round of 32 at the WTT Star Contender in Doha, Qatar on Monday with a 3-0 win over Chinese Taipei’s Hsien-Tzu Cheng.

Manika Batra, who recently won her second national title, beat Cheng 11-5, 11-9, 11-9. This is her second tournament in as many weeks after the WTT Contender last week, where she was unable to make the main draw.

The Indian table tennis player, ranked world No. 63, was dominant with her attacks, taking initiative against her Chinese Taipei opponent, ranked six places above her.

The 25-year-old Manika Batra was instinctive with her returns and her pace was too much to deal with for Cheng, who went down in straight games.

Manika Batra will now face Japanese world No.3 Mima Ito in the Round of 32 on Tuesday. 

Ito, the Rio 2016 bronze medallist in the team event, is the top-seed and is in excellent form, having won the women’s singles title at the WTT Contender.

Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal mount comebacks

In the men’s singles, new national champion Sathiyan Gnanasekaran came back from two games down to beat Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson 3-2.

G Sathiyan won 9-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 against former European champion Lebesson in the Round of 64.

World No. 37 G Sathiyan has been nursing a shoulder injury since his first-round exit at the WTT Contender last week, and even opted out of the men’s doubles and mixed doubles at the WTT Star Contender.

Sathiyan will now be up against world No. 5 Japanese prodigy Harimoto Tomokazu in the Round of 32.

Later in the day, three-time Olympian Achanta Sharath Kamal also came back from a game down to beat Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador 8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-1 in the men’s singles Round of 64.

Afanador, who was the first Puerto Rican male table tennis player at the Olympics when he qualified for Rio 2016, took advantage of Sharath Kamal’s errors to win the first game.

However, world No. 32 Sharath Kamal soon got into his groove, often taking up attacking positions to deflate Afanador and used his superior anticipation to seal his place in the Round of 32.

Achanta Sharath Kamal will now play Germany’s Patrick Franziska for a place in the pre-quarterfinals.