National Ranking Championship: Sharath looks to break jinx

Eight months after the National Championship, Panchkula’s Tau Devi Lal Stadium is once again set to host the men, women and newly-introduced under-19 sections over the next five days.

Achanta Sharath Kamal

FILE PHOTO: Achanta Sharath Kamal of India in action.   -  REUTERS

The presence of Sharath Kamal at the top of the heap of country’s leading players taking part in the UTT National Ranking Table Tennis Championship (North Zone) is in keeping with the importance of the domestic season-opener.

Eight months after the National Championship, Panchkula’s Tau Devi Lal Stadium is once again set to host the men, women and newly-introduced
under-19 sections over the next five days.

Over 250 entries in men and in excess of 160 in women are testimony of how keen the players are to get the feel of quality competition amid the pandemic.

Sharath, the Indian spearhead in the World Championship late next month, will be around to test his preparedness in Tunisia before heading to two competitions in Slovenia.

Though favourite to win the top prize of Rs. 84,000, Sharath will be keen to break the title-jinx at this sprawling venue. In his two previous visits here, Sharath lost to young F. R. Snehit in the 2018 edition of this championship and to G. Sathiyan in the National final this February.

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With Sathiyan giving the event a miss, Manav Thakkar is seeded second, followed by two former National champions Soumyajit Ghosh and Sanil Shetty.

The depth of the field is such that Commonwealth champion Harmeet Desai, defending champion A. Amalraj, Ronit Bhanja and Sushmit Sriram are more than capable of going beyond the quarterfinals.

In the women’s section, where Manika Batra has expectedly stayed away after engaging the Table Tennis Federation of India in a legal battle, defending champion Sreeja Akula heads the field.

Interestingly, the top half of the draw features National runner-up Reeth Rishya and two semifinalists Sreeja and Takeme Sarkar.

The lower half includes Olympian and second seed Sutirtha Mukherjee, third seed Ayhika Mukherjee, Anusha Kutumbe and Krittwika Sinha Roy among those expected to be in the quarterfinals.

The seedings:

Men: 1. Sharath Kamal, 2. Manav Thakkar, 3. Soumyajit Ghosh, 4. Sanil Shetty, 5. Harmeet Desai, 6. Anthony Amalraj, 7. Ronit Bhanja, 8. Sushmit Sriram.

Women: 1. Sreeja Akula, 2. Sutirtha Mukherjee, 3. Ayhika Mukherjee, 4. Reeth Rishya, 5. Takeme Sarkar, 6. Anusha Kutumbale, 7. Krittwika Sinha Roy, 8. Prapti Sen.
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