Harmeet Desai, Ayhika Mukherjee win titles at UTT-South Zone Championships

Harmeet Desai beat Sushmit Sriram while Ayhika Mukherjee came out blazing against a fighting Selenadeepthi Selvakumar in the women’s final of the South Zone national ranking championships.

Harmeet Desai of PSPB beat Sushmit Sriram in the final of the UTT-South Zone national ranking championships in Thiruvananthapuram.   -  S. Mahinsha

Harmeet Desai and Ayhika Mukherjee were all smiles as they took the men’s and women’s singles titles in the UTT-South Zone National ranking table tennis championships at the Jimmy George indoor stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.

Harmeet looked graceful as he accounted for Sushmit Sriram, seeded two rungs below his sixth ranking, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5, 6-11, 12-10 to go home richer by Rs. 77,000, while Ayhika, the lone seed remaining in the fray, came out blazing against a fighting Selenadeepthi Selvakumar 11-6, 10-12, 11-13, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 in the women’s summit clash.

Sushmit, having knocked out fourth seeded Sanish Shetty in the semifinals, had raised hopes of providing a great fight to his Gujarat rival in the final, who made the grade with a facile win over Soumyajit Ghosh. However, the Tamil Nadu paddler was nowhere in the picture as Harmeet kept piling up pressure with an attacking display.

It was Harmeet’s first zonal title win in three years; his earlier triumph came in the Central Zone championships in 2016.

The 26-year-old international was elated, “It was easy in the end and I was well prepared for Sushmit and the final,”  he said.

Selenadeepthi had her chance of winning a third title in the championships, after helping Tamil Nadu to the team title on Wednesday and winning the youth girls’ crown a couple of hours prior to the women’s final.

But against Ayhika, Selena - the daughter of former National champion Arul Selvi - began on the wrong foot losing the first game tamely. She gave a good account of herself in the next two games by raising hopes of an upset and a potential third title.

However, Ayhika was quick to employ her potent forehand through the next three games forcing Selenadeepthi to be on a defensive and commit too many unforced errors. Ayhika won 11-6, 10-12, 11-13, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 and gained the top prize of Rs. 66,000.

The results:

Men’s singles

Final: Harmeet Desai (PSPB) bt Sushmit Sriram (TN) 11-6, 11-8, 11-5, 6-11, 12-10

Semifinals: Harmeet bt Soumyajit Ghosh (Har), 11-3, 11-9, 9-11, 11-2, 10-12, 11-2; Sushmit bt Sanish Shetty (PSPB) 8-11, 11-7, 11-13, 4-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-6

Women’s singles

Final: Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI) bt Selenadeepthi Selvakumar (TN) 11-6, 10-12, 11-13, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7

Semifinals: Ayhika bt Shruti Amrute (Rlys) 9-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-3, 11-8; Selenadeepthi bt Senhora D’Souza (BoB) 11-6, 11-7, 11-6, 3-11, 11-9

Youth girls singles

Final: Selenadeepthi Selvakumar (TN) bt Kaushani Nath (Rlys) 11-5, 17-15, 13-11, 11-7

Semifinals: Selenadeepthi bt Prapti Sen (Ben), 8-11, 11-5, 4-11, 11-4, 11-7; Kaushani bt Shruti Amrute (Rlys) 11-9, 10-12, 9-11, 4-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-9