India’s Hansini Mathan Rajan beats Tokyo Olympics’ youngest athlete to win ITTF title

Hansini beats Syria’s Hend Zaza to win the girls singles title at the ITTF Hopes and Challenge tournament in Amman, Jordan.

REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE: Hansini Mathan Rajan is coached by Sharath Kamal's father Shriniwas Rao and uncle Muralidhar Rao.   -  Getty Images

India’s Hansini Mathan Rajan defeated Syria’s Hend Zaza, the youngest athlete of this year’s Tokyo Olympics, to win the girls singles event at the 2021 ITTF Hopes and Challenge table tennis tournament in Amman.

Playing in the U-12 category, the reigning cadet national champion outplayed Zaza 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 11-6 in the final played on December 14. Parth Prabhakar was India’s entry in the boys singles event which was won by Iran’s Komeil Niknejad Divshali.

Hansini, who has stayed back in Amman for the camp organised by the Asian Table Tennis Union, said the final was her toughest match of the competition. “I knew my opponent had gone to the Olympics earlier this year but I didn’t think about that while playing her. There was no pressure and I just played my game,” said the 12-year-old, who considers her backhand the strongest aspect of her game.

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During the tournament, she was accompanied by her mother and coach Mamta Prabhu, who is also a former India player.

In October, Hansini had secured her second ITTF World Youth Series title with a win the U-13 girls category in Muscat. In September, she had won her maiden Youth Series title in Tunisia.

Hansini, who is based in Chennai, is coached by India great Sharath Kamal’s father Shriniwas Rao and uncle Muralidhar Rao.

“Ever since she started playing the game as a seven year old, she has looked up to Sharath Kamal,” said her mother Pratibha, referring to India’s finest-ever paddler.

After the camp in Amman, Hansini will be returning to India to play national level events.

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