Manika Batra lone Indian to advance at Olympic table tennis qualifiers

The Indian TT player moved into the semi-finals on a day that saw the three other Indians bow out of the competition.

By Naveen Peter

Manika Batra was the only Indian table tennis player remaining at the World Singles Qualification Tournament for the Tokyo Olympics as the opening day of the meet came to a close on Sunday.

At Doha’s Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena, Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran were the first to bow out following their early-round exits. While Sutirtha Mukherjee followed suit with her loss in the quarter-finals, Manika Batra made the last-four with a dominant show.

Up against Uzbekistan’s Rimma Gufranova, Manika was in complete control of the match as she registered a 4-0 win to move into the semi-finals. On Monday, the 25-year-old will take on the world No. 44 Yang Xiaoxin of Monaco.

In her quarters, Manika Batra was cautious at the start but grew in confidence as the match progressed. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist used her wide array of shots to good effect and had her opponent in a spot of bother.

While Rimma Gufranova was successful in stretching Manika Batra in the opening game, from there on, the Indian took charge of the proceedings and dictated the pace of the match.

In attack, Manika Batra was powerful with her drives and picked her spots on the table without much fuss, and when pushed back, she defended with a closed paddle that helped keep the ball close to the net. Manika wrapped up the match 12-10, 11-3, 11-6, 11-4.

Earlier, Sutirtha Mukherjee had herself to blame for her loss against Russia’s Polina Mikhailova.

Up against the Rio Olympian, Sutirtha Mukherjee was cautious in her approach and chose to play defensive in the opening game.

With neither players keen on going for the kill, the game saw long rallies with errors on either side helping them win the points.

While Polina Mikhailova banked on her backhand chops, Sutirtha Mukherjee went flat with her returns, often negating the spin with her forceful drives as the Indian took a 1-0 lead.

In the second, Sutirtha Mukherjee was penalised for rushing into her shots as the Russian stayed deep and played the retrieving game to perfection.

Polina Mikhailova went on to take the second game and then led the third by a healthy margin before Sutirtha Mukherjee showed enough fight to rally and take the match to her opponent.

But her hunger didn’t last long as unforced errors soon crept into her game, allowing Polina Mikhailova to gain a 2-1 lead in the match.

Though Sutirtha Mukherjee won the fourth and pushed the fifth to the distance, the 25-year-old couldn’t get past Polina Mikhailova as the Russian notched up a 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 11-5 win.