In a marathon battle that literally turned out to be the show-stopper affair of the day, with all the other matches in the 12-table hall coming to a halt, Sreeja Akula edged past top seed Sutirtha Mukherjee in a breathtaking women’s quarterfinal of the UTT West Zone National Ranking Table Tennis Tournament on Thursday.
The 18-16 win in the deciding game meant Sreeja registered her third successive win of the season against the favourite. But the win on Thursday was the most satisfying for the 21-year-old, who trains under Somnath Ghosh at the MLR Table Tennis Academy in Hyderabad.
With both the players using a soft-pimpled rubber, the 70-minute affair in humid conditions saw tactical game at its best. The diminutive Sreeja eventually succeeded in cramping Sutirtha for space to convert her sixth match-point and set up a semifinal affair with Maharashtra’s Diya Chitale.
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Teenager Chitale halted the giant-run of Nikhat Banu in yet another seven-game affair that left the packed Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School spellbound with long rallies. Diya’s pace and consistency eventually turned out to be too much to handle for Nikhat.
While Sutirtha’s exit meant none of the top four seeds - with Ayhika Mukherjee, Archana Kamath and Madhurika Patkar who couldn’t even make the last eight - will feature in the semifinals, the men’s draw saw top two seeds - Manav Thakkar and Sanil Shetty - making it to the semis with little trouble.
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While hsi wife Reeth Rishya went down to Takeme Sarkar in the women’s quarters, southpaw Shetty saw off packed off seasoned Sourav Saha in straight games. Thakkar, meanwhile, conceded a game before getting the better of former national champion Soumyajit Ghosh, who made it to his second successive quarterfinal in as many weeks.
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