Age-fudging is rampant in Indian sport, especially individual disciplines. At 19, Manav Thakkar chose to go against the tide and decided to participate only in the men’s category midway through the ongoing season. And the bespectacled paddler justified his decision by lifting the second title of the season, making short work of Sanil Shetty in the final of the UTT West Zone National Ranking table tennis tournament on Friday.

Soon after Sreeja Akula made a stunning comeback against giant-killer Takeme Sarkar in a thrilling final to claim the women’s singles title, Thakkar showed his class by running over southpaw Shetty. No doubt with four of the top five Indian paddlers skipping the tournament, Thakkar was the clear favourite. However, it was incredible to see the way he stamped his authority all through the tournament.

Thakkar later revealed he decided to stop competing in youth category after the season-opening zonal in Sonepat, Haryana in June. “I had made up my mind pre-season itself to concentrate solely on the men’s event but since I had failed to win the youth national championship last season, I decided to win the first zonal and then stop playing youth,” Thakkar told Sportstar.

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“Playing only in men’s does add to the pressure in a sense but it helps me conserve my energy and attention on only one event. And the two titles this season have proven that I have made the right decision.”

While Thakkar followed up on his last week’s title in Howrah, Sreeja made a remarkable return against Sarkar to join Thakkar in the club of twin titles for the season. However, it appeared that Sarkar will end her dream run on a fitting note when she surged ahead 9-5 in the sixth game after leading 3-2.

But Sreeja showed her prowess with her powerful forehand winners and exceptional control while using the pimpled rubber to enforce the decider. Sreeja further upped the ante in the last game to finish the match off in style.