West Zone National Ranking C’ship: All eyes on Manav Thakkar

In a field devoid of stars, the bespectacled paddler is the favourite to make it two crowns in as many weeks.

Manav Thakkar won the men’s title in the East Zone ranking tournament last week.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

The last time the city of lakes on the outskirts of the metropolis hosted a table tennis zonal two years ago, it was marred by mediocre playing conditions. As the UTT West Zone National Ranking Table Tennis Championship returns to the city, the local organisers have ensured the cream of Indian table tennis is offered the best of the conditions.

The venue has been shifted from the conventional Dadoji Konddev Stadium to the Indoor Sports Arena of Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhani School, one of the most renowned schools in the country. Despite the best of the conditions on offer, the tournament will see the top paddlers in India continuing to skip the national circuit.

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With an eye on qualifying for Tokyo 2020, the triumvirate of veteran A. Sharath Kamal, in-form G. Sathiyan and golden girl Manika Batra have refrained from making a maiden appearance on the domestic circuit this season. Add to that the absence of A. Amalraj and Harmeet Desai — the domestic giants who had been crowned men’s singles champions in the north and south zonals, respectively, earlier in the season — and it makes Manav Thakkar a rank favourite in the men’s draw.

Teenaged Thakkar won his maiden men’s title of the season in the East Zone ranking tournament last week and the bespectacled paddler is set to make it two crowns in as many weeks here.

Out-of-form Madhurika, Pooja

In the women’s section, the seasoned Madhurika Patkar and Pooja Sahasrabudhe would hope to find form on their home turf. Both the girls have failed to make a mark in the three zonals so far. It would be interesting to see if they can challenge the next generation of India’s female paddlers, led by Sutirtha Mukherjee, Krittwika Sinha Roy and Sreeja Akula, each of whom have a title in their kitty this season.

Reigning national champion Archana Kamath will be looking forward to bounce back from an early exit in Howrah last week.

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