Railways, once among the leading teams in the country’s table tennis, is surely going through tough times. With some of the other institutions luring away the cream of the Railway recruits, offering better job prospects, it appears like an uphill task for the former champion in the institutional competitions.

The writing was on the wall on Sunday when Airports Authority of India girls whipped Railways 3-1 to top the group after their much-anticipated clash in the All India inter-institutional championship here.

The young brigade of AAI, comprising Ayhika Mukherjee, Frenaz Chipia and Archana Kamath made it past Railways after taking two matches off veteran Anindita Chakraborty. For Railways, only Takema Sarkar won the second singles by stopping Frenaz. On her part, Anindita took Ayhika to five games and then lost 1-3 to Frenaz.

With two teams, from each of the three groups, reaching the knockout stage, both AAI and Railways reached the quarterfinals. Railways had to battle hard against Indian Audit for a 3-2 verdict, with Sagarika Mukherjee winning both her singles. Petroleum and Air-India, the top two seeds, headed their group to enjoy direct entry into the semifinals.

As things stand, in the quarterfinals, AAI plays Central Revenue for a place in the semifinals against Air India. From the top half of the draw, Railways faces Reserve Bank of India for a semifinal berth against the mighty Petroleum.

In the men’s section, Petroleum, Railways, AAI, Central Revenue, Audit and Reserve Bank of India topped their groups to ensure a place in the second stage. Out of these teams, the first four mentioned have been seeded for the quarterfinals.

Petroleum men toyed with the Department of Atomic Energy and Defence Accounts, winning both matches 3-0. Similarly, AAI did not drop a game against Ministry of Communications and State Bank of Patiala. Central Revenue had to battle hard in overcoming Air India 3-2.

In a mild surprise, Indian Audit overcame Canara Bank 3-2 while RBI had to draw from its reserves to win 3-2 against LIC.