Manika enters main draw with consecutive wins

Meanwhile, Harsha Vardhini survives a scare against Vidya N to join Manika in the main draw of the LIC-South Zone National-ranking table tennis tournament.

Manika Batra downed Syeda Dania Taski before beating Nikita Rautela in her group to secure a place in the main draw.   -  AFP

Harsha Vardhini of RBI would have very nearly lost her match and not qualified for the main draw of the LIC-South Zone National-ranking table tennis tournament at the District Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday.

Set to play against N. Vidya of Central Revenue Sports Board in the second qualifying round, the 18-year-old from Tamil Nadu arrived at the venue just on (extended) time.

Once on-court, Harsha played a diligent game to outwit Vidya 5-11, 11-9, 16-14, 12-10 to script her second straight win in her group.

Earlier, she had put it across India No.15 and 2013-14 Patna National championship finalist Krittwika Sinha Roy 8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 13-11 in the first round.

She is certain to make the grade as her third opponent in the group, Manisha Seal of Madhya Pradesh, too has given a walkover.

However, former national champion Mouma Das’ fate hangs in balance. Playing in the qualifiers for the first time in recent times, she won her first round against Senhora D’Souza of Maharashtra 'A' , but went down to AAI’s Frenaz Chipia 10-12, 11-7, 8-11, 8-11.

Frenaz matched Mouma shot for shot and her backhand drive hogged the limelight at crucial junctures of the match.

A native of Surat, Frenaz trailed 3-7 in the third game, but fought back to win 11-8. She was at the top of her game in the fourth, racing to a 9-6 lead with several attacking shots on both flanks, and didn't look back after that.

Mouma will take on Anubha Bajaj of Delhi on Thursday, and she will have to win to comfortably qualify for the main draw.

It needs to be mentioned that the 33-year-old representing PSPB skipped the season-opener Central Zone ranking event at Indore and the subsequent All-India Inter-Institutional championships at Delhi.

However, PSPB's Manika Batra, the 2015-16 National champion, didn’t have any problems in scripting two straight wins in her group to gain a place in the main draw.

Manika first defeated Assam’s 12-year-old Syeda Dania Taski in her opening match 11-6, 11-2, 11-1. She then, downed Rajasthan’s Nikita Rautela 11-8, 11-6, 13-11 in the second to seal her place.

It was Harsha's day today as she scripted her best performance in the women’s section thus far with a wonderful display. Her triumph over Krittwika was top-draw as she remained in the rallies and went for the forehand 'kill' whenever the opportunity presented itself. “This is my best performance in women’s as far as beating higher-ranked players are concerned,” said Harsha, who had reached the pre-quarterfinals on earlier occasions.

Krittwika still has a chance to make the grade as two players from each group qualify.