East Zone National TT: Siddhesh Pande and Kaushani Nath script upset wins, in semifinals

Both qualifiers here, they made a significant impact by giving their-best-ever performance at the National arena in the men's and women's sections.

Siddesh Pande in action during his quarterfinal match in the East Zone National-ranking.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Siddhesh Pande and Kaushani Nath are having a dream run in the East Zone National-ranking table tennis tournament here at the R.G. Sports Complex’s Indoor Stadium.

Both qualifiers here, they made a significant impact by giving their-best-ever performance at the National arena in the men's and women's sections. Twenty-year-old Siddhesh of Maharashtra overcame Sougata Sarkar (LIC) in six games, 11-7, 13-11, 9-11, 11-7, 14-16, 11-6 while Kaushani (AAI), 19 years, outplayed former National champion Ankita Das 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-2 in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Siddhesh had put it across Anthony Amalraj, the South Zone champion and the No.2 seed in the pre-quarterfinals.

However, top seeds in men's and women's category, Manav Thakkar (PSPB) and Sutirtha Mukherjee (Haryana) entered the last four, with comfortable victories over Raj Mondal and Ayhika Mukherjee respectively.

It was like overcoming a huge "mental barrier" for Siddhesh as he chose to put it. In the last three years, he has never gone past the pre-quarterfinals. This time, he was prepared. Both against Amalraj and Sarkar, the 18-year-old didn’t shirk from attack on both flanks, forcing the opponents to either go on the defensive or commit errors.

Leading 3-1 against Sarkar, Siddhesh lost focus and lost the fifth game. But the Mumbai lad came back strongly in the sixth. After taking an 8-6 lead, Siddhesh took the next three points to pocket the match.

Kaushani has been playing very aggressively in the tournament while possessing a short pimple on the forehand and anti-spin on the backhand side. Her best performance this season has been reaching the second round. Against Ankita, who is also very aggressive, the 17-year-old from West Bengal played really well on the counters.

Once she took a 3-1 lead Kaushani completely went on the offensive taking a 8-2 lead in the fifth to close out the match.

Qualifier Reeth Rishya (PSPB) has been impressive in the tournament. Fighting back when being down and attacking on both flanks at crunch moments have been the strong points of her game in this tournament. Against Prapti Sen, Reeth showed excellent variations on forehand and backhand to win in five games.

Semifinal line-up:
Men: Manav Thakkar vs Manush Shah; Arjun Ghosh vs Siddhesh Pande; Women: Kaushani Nath vs Sutirtha Mukherjee; Reeth Rishya vs Madhurika Patkar.

The results (Quarterfinals):

Men Singles: Manav Thakkar (PSPB) bt Raj Mondal (RBI) 11-9, 13-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7; Manush Shah (Guj) bt Sanil Shetty (PSPB) 12-10, 11-5, 11-9, 11-8; Arjun Ghosh (AAI) bt Sudhanshu Grover (PSPB) 11-5, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9; Siddhesh Pande (Mah) bt Sougata Sarkar (LIC) 11-7, 13-11, 9-11, 11-7, 14-16, 11-6.

Women Singles: Sutirtha Mukherjee (Har) bt Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI) 11-5, 7-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-8; Kaushani Nath (AAI) bt Ankita Das (PSPB) 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-2; Reeth Rishya (PSPB) bt Prapti Sen (WB) 11-8, 11-4, 10-12, 11-7, 11-6; Madhurika Patkar (PSPB) bt Surbhi Patwari (WB) 11-8, 6-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-5.