Playing in his maiden final at the National-level in the men’s section, 20-year-old Siddhesh Pande of Maharashtra didn’t succumb to pressure.  

Siddhesh, a qualifier, overwhelmed the top seed Manav Thakkar in a seven-game humdinger at 11-8, 4-11, 11-8, 7-11, 8-11, 15-13, 12-10 in the men's final of the East Zone National-ranking table tennis tournament in Guwahati on Friday.  In fact, Siddhesh stopped Manav from bagging a double, as the latter had won the youth title earlier in the day.

On the contrary in the women’s section, Sutirtha Mukherjee (Haryana), the top seed, defeated Madhurika Patkar in four straight games, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 to bag the women’s crown. In fact, Sutirtha has not faced much competition in the tournament. In the six rounds, she has lost just four games in total, which shows her domination.  

Manav is a difficult player to play. Primarily a block player, the 18-year-old attacks with equal felicity on both flanks.  

Trailing 2-3, Siddhesh showed he can handle the high-pressure situations in the crucial sixth game. Both played a fantastic game, with Manav blocking and attacking in equal measure and Siddhesh matching him for every point. Manav saved five game points before hitting a forehand long while facing the sixth. The seventh and deciding game was close with Siddhesh winning the contest on his second match point.

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“I never thought I will come this far. After beating Amalraj in the pre-quarters, I vomitted but I picked myself up quickly. The win has boosted my confidence,” said Siddhesh.

Being a limited player in terms of movements and strokes, Sutirtha makes it up with amazing consistency at this level,  She played to her strengths, being good on the counters and not giving Madhurika the width to unleash her shots. The former [2017] National champion played a one-dimensional game, and ended up playing to the strength of her opponent.

“The [previous event] South Zone win had given me a lot of confidence coming here,” said Sutirtha.  

The results: