With both Dabang Delhi and Chennai Lions already in the semifinals before facing each other on Thursday, there wasn’t much pressure on Madhurika Patkar ahead of her singles encounter with Romania’s World No. 14 Bernadette Szocs.
Madhurika’s 3-0 defeat consigned her team – the Lions – to an 8-7 defeat. Comprehensively beaten in the first two games, she could have snuck in the third; bringing variety to her game, she went neck-and-neck with Bernadette, before going down on the golden point.
Bernadette’s services were difficult to deal with, Madhurika told Sportstar after her contest. She said, “Her style is different. So, it was not at all suiting me. It was very odd. I mean, she was playing slow and her services were just incredible. I couldn’t receive her services, so I was stuck there. First thing was, how should I receive her service? The next ball she was playing was also odd as there was too much of spin so overall I was not finding it comfortable with her style of play.”
Despite being 2-0 down and struggling with the opponent’s style of play, she didn’t throw in the towel.
“In the third game, I said ‘don’t give up’ as there would be pressure on her as well. She [would want] to win 3-0. I was like, ‘don’t give up.’ I was finding solutions; I started the long services and did some variations. The third game, I could have won because I missed two services, and then I was leading by one point. That mattered, I feel,” she reflected.
It was her fourth singles loss in the league this season, three against potent foreign players – including Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem and Germany’s Sabine Winter.
The sole victory was against India’s No. 1 among female players – Manika Batra. How would she rate her performance so far?
“Overall, my performance in UTT is good. I am playing what I’m practising, but here I didn’t play (laughs). I’m happy,” she said.
The loss was a learning experience for her. She said: “Whether you’re playing a foreigner or Indian, it is always a learning experience. Even today’s match was a learning experience; now I will know how to play more of the spins and side-spins and the slower balls and high-loop balls. This is what I’m analysing now out of this match.”
But besides the techniques and styles, too, there has been much to learn. “I learned that the foreigners keep on playing till the last point. The situation, the score, doesn’t come in between. This I learnt and have been implementing also,” she revealed.
And what about their preparations? “They are totally focussed. They watch the matches, they discuss the strategy, they analyse themselves, they ask others how it has to played. Before the matches, they are totally in their zone,” Madhurika said.
Although she couldn’t witness the singles meeting between World No.63 Jon Persson and the World No. 1138 Anirban Ghosh, she was happy for the exposure gained by the 20-year-old up-and-coming Indian. Ghosh expectedly lost 3-0 but not without having displayed his promise.
“He’s just 20; at this age he is playing in a team event and playing with a foreigner. It’s a big platform for him. It’s a great opportunity for you and UTT is [providing] that opportunity,” she said.
The Lions take on Goa Challengers in the second semifinal on Saturday.
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