National-ranking table tennis: Albuquerue, Kutumbale emerge surprise champions

On a day that tested the players' fitness more than skills, Raegan Albuquerque and Anusha Kutumbale overcame all the challenges thrown at them.

Eighth-seed Kutumbale and third-seed Albuquerque bagged the top honours.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Third-seed Raegan Albuquerque of Maharashtra and local girl Anusha Kutumbale of Madhya Pradesh sprang a spree of surprises to walk away with the junior (under-18) boys' and girls' honours, respectively, in the 11Sports Central Zone National Ranking table tennis tournament on Monday.

On a day that tested the players' fitness more than skills - with the last four knockout rounds scheduled in six hours - Albuquerque and Kutumbale overcame all the challenges thrown at them.

Eighth-seed Kutumbale, having stunned top seed Swastika Ghosh of Maharashtra in the quarterfinal, weathered Poymantee Baisya's challenge in the semifinal before comfortably halting Prapti Sen in the summit clash.

Unseeded Sen appeared to be jaded and committed too many unforced errors against a consistent Kutumbale, who had her whole family cheering from the gallery.

Albuquerque, on the other hand, overcame the consistent and in-form Manush Shah of Gujarat in the final. Having stormed into the semifinal of men's and youth boys' earlier in the week, southpaw Shah was a favourite for the title. However, Albuquerque, who trains at the Booster's Club in Thane, overpowered the consistent Shah.

So consistent was Albuquerque with his powerful forehand top-spins that it left Shah stunned for a better part of the match that stretched to the deciding seventh game.

Albuquerque had a chance to finish it off in the sixth, leading 5-1 after having a 3-2 game advantage. But Shah showed his class with a string of winners to stretch the game into the decider. But Albuquerque, having last won a National ranking tournament way back in 2012 as a cadet (under-12) player, bounced his way back to end with tears of joy.  

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