National table tennis championship: Manika rallies to stop Archana on day of upsets

Archana Kamath dropped the first two games narrowly, claimed the next three, but lost her way midway through the sixth game. As a result, Manika Batra won 13-11, 11-9, 4-11, 5-11, 9 11, 11-8, 11-4.

Manika Batra

File Picture: Manika Batra beat Archana Kamath to reach the semifinals of the National table tennis championship.   -  AFP Photo

With the prospect of defeat looming large, Manika Batra just about managed to find a new gear. She raced away with the last two games against a battling Archana Kamath on the way to the semifinals of the National table tennis championship in Panchkula on Wednesday.

In a contest seen as the ‘final-before-the-final’, Archana dropped the first two games narrowly, claimed the next three, but lost her way midway through the sixth game. As a result, Manika won 13-11, 11-9, 4-11, 5-11, 9 11, 11-8, 11-4.

On Thursday, Manika plays fourth seed Sreeja Akula while the faceoff between Takeme Sarkar and Reeth Rishya, seeded 11 and 15, will decide the other finalist.

The Manika-Archana clash could well end up as the contest of the championship. The two former champions battled for 50 minutes during which the momentum swung both ways. If Archana bridged a four-point deficit in the first game and another five-point gap in the second to make it 9-all, Manika claimed the bigger points to bag the two games.

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Undeterred, Archana caught up with Manika by blitzing through the next two games in under 10 minutes by conceding just nine points. In the fifth, Archana unleashed her backhand flicks, controlled her forehand blocks and came up with some fine finishing strokes.

In the face of the onslaught, Manika held her nerves to open an 8-5 lead in the fifth game but it was Archana who regained control by winning six of the next points to lead 3-2 in the best of seven encounters.

Though Manika surged 5-2 ahead in the sixth game, Archana reduced the lead to a point. Then came the turning point of the contest. With Archana serving at 4-5, a time-out from Manika turned the match on its head.

On resumption, Archana erred three times in succession to trail 4-8 and soon Manika held four game points. Though Archana saved two, Manika was not to be denied.

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In the decider, it was Manika all the way. She opened a 6-0 lead and let Archana gain only four points before advancing to the semifinal.

On a day when three rounds were scheduled, the pre-quarterfinals saw Reeth Rishya turn the tables on defending champion and second seed Sutirtha Mukherjee dramatically. Down 1-3 in the best-of-seven-game encounter, Reeth bounced back to win 6-11, 11-9, 7-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6.

Krittwika bows out

Sutirtha’s exit followed the ouster of three-time finalist Krittwika Sinha Roy. Runner-up to Archana and Sutirtha in two preceding editions, Krittwika failed to match Takeme Sarkar, who posted an impressive 11-6, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 13-11 triumph.

In a dramatic morning session, reigning Commonwealth title-holder and third seed Ayhika Mukherjee, two former National champions Madhurika Patkar and Ankita Das along with rising talent S. Selenadeepthi made second-round exits.

Pooja knocked out Ayhika 13-11, 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 12-14, 11-5, Kaushani took out Ankita 12-10,12-10, 11-3, 3-11, 11-4, Poymantee Baisya packed off Madhurika 11-7, 11-5, 13-11, 3-11, 2-11, 6-11, 13-11 and Varuni Jaiswal surprised S. Selenadeepthi 11-6, 13-11, 11-8, 6-11, 8-11, 11-5.

The results (prefix denotes seedings):

Women: Quarterfinals: 1-Manika Batra (Pet) bt 9-Archana Kamath (Knt) 13-11, 11-9, 4-11, 5-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-4; 4-Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt 5-Prapti Sen (Ben ‘A’) 7-11, 11-13, 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7; 11-Takeme Sarkar bt Pooja Sahasrabudhe (Pet) 11-8, 9-11, 1-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-9; 15-Reeth Rishya (Pet) bt 7-Kaushani Nath (Rlys) 11-2, 6-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-9.

Pre-quarterfinals: Manika bt 16-Sagarika Mukherjee (Rlys) 12-10, 11-5, 11-5, 11-6; Archana bt 8-Anusha Kutumbale (TTFI) 11-3, 11-5, 11-9, 4-11, 9-11, 2-11, 11-3; Prapti bt Shruti Amrute (Rlys) 7-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9, 11-3; Sreeja bt Diya Chitale (Mah ‘A’) 6-11, 14-12, 12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 13-11; Pooja bt Poymantee Baisya (Ben ‘A’) 11-6, 11-8, 13-11, 11-8; Takeme bt 6-Krittwika Sinha Roy (Pet) 11-6, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 13-11; Kaushini bt Varuni Jaiswal (Telg) 8-11, 16-14, 11-6, 11-8, 11-4; Reeth bt 2-Sutritha Mukherjee (Har) 6-11, 11-9, 7-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6.

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