There were question marks on Sreeja Akula’s form during the team events at the UTT-84th Senior National and inter-state table tennis championships here, when she lost the first rubber in the semifinals and the crucial third rubber in the final.
The 24-year-old, however, turned things around in the singles. In the final against Sutirtha Mukherjee on Monday, Sreeja showed nerves of steel to win 9-11, 14-12, 11-7, 13-11, 6-11, 12-10 to become the second woman after Mouma Das (2005 & ‘06) to defend her title.
On the contrary, G. Sathiyan, the top seed, had been in excellent form throughout. He continued in the same vein in the singles as well. Against Harmeet Desai, the 29-year-old was ruthless as he scripted a straight-game (11-9, 11-7, 11-8, 11-5) victory to bag his second title in his sixth final appearance.
Sathiyan was ecstatic. “I was prepared for everything from the beginning, But the final scoreline was a surprise as I don’t remember beating Harmeet in such an easy manner. But my coach S. Raman told me from the first game when Harmeet took a 7-1 lead in the first game to stay focused and attack. I was in control throughout,” he said. “This is easily my best Nationals.”
Sreeja said she tried out certain new things in the team events which didn’t click. “I am very happy that everything came together. It was a learning experience in the team events.”
The men’s and women’s singles winners received an identical amount of Rs. 2.75 lakh prize money each.
Singles (final): G. Sathiyan (PSPB) bt Harmeet Desai (PSPB) 11-9, 11-7, 11-8, 11-5; (semifinals): Sathiyan bt Manav Thakkar (PSPB) 13-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-1, 9-11, 11-5; Harmeet bt Manush Shah (RBI) 11-6, 3-11, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6;
Doubles (final): Jeet Chandra/Ankur Bhattacharjee (WB) bt Mohammed Ali/Vansh Singhal (Telg) 11-6, 11-7, 11-6.
Women: singles (final): Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Sutirtha Mukherjee (WB) 9-11, 14-12,11-7, 13-11, 6-11, 12-10; (semifinals): Sutirtha Mukherjee (WB) bt Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI) 12-10, 11-7, 11-5, 12-10; Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Archana Kamath (PSPB) 11-9, 11-3, 11-6, 9-11, 5-11, 11-7.;
Doubles (final): Sreeja Akula/Diya Chitale (RBI) bt Swastika Ghosh/Shruti Amrute (Mah) 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 14-12.
Mixed doubles (final): Manav Thakkar/Archana Kamath (PSPB) bt Ankur Bhattacharjee/Moumita Datta (WB) 11-5, 14-12, 11-3.
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