UTT South Zone Championships: Sharath, Sathiyan pull out

While big stars such as Achanta Sharath Kamal and G. Sathiyan have pulled out of the tournament, Manav Thakkar and Sutirtha Mukherjee were awarded the top seedings.

Manav Thakkar has been given the top billing in the men’s section.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Ace paddler player Achanta Sharath Kamal's last minute withdrawal, owing to indisposition, has left the men's singles field wide open in the ongoing UTT South Zone National ranking championships.

While it was more or less confirmed on Wednesday that G. Sathiyan, who is the highest ranked Indian in the world and thereby the natural choice of being the top seed, would not be seen in action – owing to his participation in the Bulgarian Open - all hopes of the draw still being attractive were dashed when Sharath Kamal’s pulling out was confirmed on Thursday morning.

With Anthony Amalraj too away in Bulgaria, it is Manav Thakkar who has been now given the top billing in the men’s section ahead of his PSPB team-mate Sudhanshu Grover.

Maharashtra’s Siddesh Pande and Sanish Shetty are at No. 3 and No. 4 while Harmeet Desai has been slotted as the sixth seed, a spot behind Jeet Chandra. Arjun Ghosh and Sushmit Sriram complete the top eight.

In the women’s section, with big names such as Manika Batra and National champion Anupama Kamath giving the event a miss, Sutirtha Mukherjee was awarded the top seed, providing her the chance of winning a second title after her triumph in the recently concluded North Zone championships.

However, the Kolkata paddler will have to put it across other seeded players – Madhurika Patkar, Sagarika Mukherjee, Divya Deshpande, Sreeja Akula, Pooja Sahasrabudhe and Ayhika Mukherjee – to emerge victorious.

The second day of the event was entirely taken up by the qualification to the main draw of the two sections, with the officials under pressure to complete over 450 matches across 15 tables and two sessions.

The main draw, starting on Friday, will initially be focussed on the preliminary matches in the men’s section wherein 16 players will be eliminated to get to the draw of 64.

However, in the women’s singles, it will be straight to the draw of 64 with the schedule also including the round of 32 of both the sections.