Barely hours after losing her semifinal match to Japan’s second seed Mima Ito in the Asian Cup table tennis tournament here on Saturday, Manika Batra produced a dazzling performance to outclass another Japanese Hina Hayata, World No. 6 and the third seed, 4-2 (11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 12-10, 4-11, 11-2) in the play-off match for the third place and bag a historic bronze medal.
A big shot-maker with a big backlift, the left-handed Hayata is a paddler capable of producing winners from tough positions and angles. Strategically, Manika largely nullified it by twiddling her racquet getting her long pimpled rubber to do the rest. Hayata struggled with the spin. But to reduce the Indian’s performance to ‘funny’ rubbers will be false. Manika never relented from going for attack. While trailing or when ahead, she kept her focus and continued with her aggressive approach.
The best example surfaced in the fourth game against Hayata. Trailing 6-10, Manika, ranked 44 in the world and unseeded here, produced a string of forehand winners to win the game at 12-10.
After the win, she said, “I am happy to win the bronze medal. This win is a huge one for me, defeating the top players. I enjoyed playing and fighting well against them to achieve a fantastic result. I will continue putting the extra yard in all my future tournaments. I expect all of you to extend your full support.”
Unseeded in Bangkok, Manika, ranked 44 in the world, defeated three much higher-ranked players. First she upset China’s Chen Xingtong, World No. 7 and seeded fourth, in the first round (pre-quarterfinals) then put it across Chen Szu-Yu (Taipei), World ranked 23 and seeded eighth in the quarterfinals and then Hayata in the bronze medal playoff match. Manika has proved the doomsayers wrong with a performance to cherish for a long time.