Madhurika Patkar will clash with Divya Deshpande in the women’s final while Sharath Kamal takes on Anirban Ghosh in the men’s summit clash of the 11Sports-West Zone National-ranking table tennis tournament to be held at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Tuesday evening beginning 4 p.m.
All eyes were on the Commonwealth Games star Manika, the second seed. However, it was clear that Madhurika had come with a clear strategy: to attack irrespective of the situation. Madhurika implemented her plan in a meticulous fashion to script a 6-11, 9-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-6, 11-7 win.
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In the other women's semifinal, Divya Deshpande defeated Sagarika Mukherjee 11-6, 11-7, 11-1, 9-11, 11-6.
In the men's last-four clashes, Sharath edged out A. Amalraj, the top seed, 12-14, 7-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-7, 9-11, 13-11 while qualifier Anirban Ghosh outwitted Sanil Shetty, the third seed, 11-9, 11-9, 10-12, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9.
Manika was staring down the barrel having lost the first three games, just like she was against Ayhika Mukherjee in the quarterfinals. Like a true champion, she fought back to level at three-games apiece.
The seventh game was a seat-edge thriller with both players taking turns to attack and win points. Madhurika had two match points at 10-8, but Manika saved both. The 2016-17 National champion, however, forced the pace on her third match point when Manika’s forehand top-spin shot went long.
For Sharath, the tournament has been nothing less than topsy-turvy. From the third round, Sharath has been stretched. Against an unheralded Sanish Ambekar, the Indian star paddler huffed and puffed to pull off a victory in seven games. And again in the pre-quarterfinals, he warded off a stiff challenge from Arjun Ghosh, before punishing M. Subash in four straight games in the last eight.
Against Amalraj, the top seed, in the semifinals, everyone knew it would not be easy for the former Commonwealth (singles) Games champion. And it certainly wasn't.
In the deciding seventh game, Amalraj ran up a 3-0, 4-2 and 9-4 leads and had two match points at 10-8. Sharath saved both; one an unforced error by Amalraj and the other a blistering forehand winner while receiving Amalraj’s service. Though Amalraj saved one match point on Sharath’s serve, the eight-time national champion closed out the match on his second when an Amalraj’s backhand sailed long.