ITTF Asian Cup: Manika Batra shines; Sharath, Harmeet disappoint

The lanky Batra emerged the only positive for India with the men's duo of A. Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai bowing out without putting on too much resistance.

However, she will have a gargantuan task on Saturday morning to go past World No. 7 Miu Hirano of Japan, who surprisingly finished third in her group.   -  AP

Manika Batra registered a hat-trick of wins in the group of regional qualifiers to keep India's challenge afloat on the opening day of the ITTF Asian Cup. Amidst loud cheers of local fans, mostly school kids ferried by the host association, the lanky Batra emerged the only positive for India with the men's duo of A. Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai bowing out without putting on too much resistance.

Batra hardly broke sweat while overcoming Qatar's Aia Mohamed in straight games. The Delhi girl returned in the afternoon to repeat the scoreline against Iran's Nida Shahsavari. When she entered the arena in the evening to face Thailand's Suthasini Sawettabut, she knew it was a must-win game in order to make it to the Playoff Challenge for the knockout stage.

Batra managed to keep her fancied opponent guessing with constant change of strategy and switching the pimpled and plain rubbers on the backhand to win 11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-8. However, she will have a gargantuan task on Saturday morning to go past World No. 7 Miu Hirano of Japan, who surprisingly finished third in her group.

Sharath, Harmeet disappoint

Manika's male counterparts, however, had a forgettable outing with Sharath and Harmeet failing to live up to the challenge. While Sharath couldn't withstand the pace of all his three higher ranked opponents, Harmeet lost his way in the deciding game against Nima Alamian of Iran and Padasak Tanviriyavechakul of Thailand to finish third in his group.

Sharath couldn't get going against Lee Sangsu of Korea, then was outpaced by China's young sensation Lin Gaoyuan that virtually put an end to his campaign. The Indian veteran ended his day with another defeat against Japan's Jun Mizutani, with the consolation of having snatched a game against the World No. 8.

Bloopers abound

The day saw the technical officials dealing with multiple glitches. While power supply was interrupted for fifteen minutes in the morning session, the evening session was postponed by half an hour due to a prolonged formal inauguration ceremony with Gujarat sports minister Rajendra Trivedi being the chief guest. The hassles compounded with one of the four tables being forced to be replaced after players complained of slope on the surface.

List of Qualifiers:

Women:

Group A: Zhu Yuling (CHN), Doom Hoi Kem (HKG); Group B: Liu Shiwen (CHN), Cheng I-Ching (TPE); Group C: Kasumi Ishikawa (JPN), Chen Szu-Yu (TPE).

Men:

Group A: Koki Niwa (JPN), Fan Zhendong (CHN); Group B: Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE), Jeong Sanguen (KOR); Group C: Jun Mizutani (JPN), Lin Gaoyuan (CHN).

Playoff Challenge:

Women: Miu Hirano (JPN) vs Manika Batra (IND); Lee Ho Ching (HKG) vs Su Hyowon (KOR).

Men: Noshad Alamiyan (IRI) vs Lee Sangsu (KOR), Nima Alamian (IRI) vs Chen Chien-An (TPE).