Manush Shah had reached semifinals of all the five National-ranking table tennis tournaments last year, and those losses were closely contested. Naturally, the leftie was dejected. Add to that, he lost in the quarterfinals of the National junior championship in his hometown Vadodara in January this year.
When he won the season opener, the LIC-IOC South Zone title — for his first junior crown — defeating Jeet Chandra 11-6, 11-5, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8 in the boys’ final at the District Indoor Stadium here on Monday, it was indeed special. “Practicing at the National camp at Patiala was really helpful. And my parents and coach told me ‘don’t be satisfied (reaching the final), go for the title. That motivated me,” said Manush.
Swastika Ghosh of Maharashtra ‘A’, who had shocked Archana Kamath, the second seed, in the quarterfinals, played a near-perfect attacking game to subdue Selena Deepthi 11-9, 13-15, 11-3, 11-4, 11-5 in the junior girls’ final.
A naturally attacking player on both flanks, Manush proved to be a tad above Jeet in the first two games. A close to the table player, Jeet couldn’t control the pace of Manush’s power-packed strokes.
The third game saw Jeet display his wares to an extent by blocking well and making less unforced errors. Though Jeet unleashed a few backhand drive winners in the fourth and fifth games, those were far and few between, Manush was far too superior with his marauding strokes.
Swastika, too, claimed her maiden junior title and it was every inch deserved. Hers is a beautiful game to watch, her service and attacking strokes especially on the forehand side are a delight to watch. Needless to say, it was effective, too.
Selena, seeded fifth, did trouble Swastika with her backhand side-spin serves in the second game, which the Chennai lass won. Selena did try to catch her at long rallies, but Swastika was equal on that front, too. Her forehand cross-court shots during longer rallies gave Selena little chance.
Junior boys: Final: Manush Shah (AAI) bt Jeet Chandra (WB) 11-6, 11-5, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8; Semifinals: Manush bt Yashansh Malik (Del) 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 13-11, 5-11, 11-3; Jeet bt Manav Thakkar (PSPB) 11-7,11-9, 4-11, 11-5, 11-6.
Junior girls: Final: Swastika ghosh (Mah ‘A’) bt Selena Deepthi (AAI) 11-9, 13-15, 11-3, 11-4, 11-5; Semifinals: Swastika bt Srushti Haleangadi (Mah ‘A’) 11-9, 11-4, 3-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-8; Selena bt Ishita Gupta (Del) 8-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5.
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