Fourth seed Sushmit Sriram of Tamil Nadu and eighth seed Manush Shah were stretched to the hilt by promising youngsters Shubham Ambre of Maharashtra and S. Preyesh Raj of Tamil Nadu, respectively, in the men’s main draw first round of the UTT West Zone National ranking table tennis tournament on Thursday.
Despite the delayed fixtures due to a prolonged inaugural ceremony in the morning, Ambre and Preyesh put up a brave show before going down against fancied opponents at the Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania school.
In an all-southpaw battle, Shah, a star of India’s bronze medal-winning squad at the recent Asian Junior Championship, had a tough time dealing with Preyesh, who is one of the consistent performers in the sub-junior category. Thanks to his powerful forehand top-spins, Shah raced to a 3-0 lead but Preyesh showed his mettle by winning the next two games. Shah, however, raised his game in the sixth to win 11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 12-14, 11-8.
Sushmit, meanwhile, was surprised to have seen young Ambre pose a threat to his unconventional strokes. In fact, had Ambre converted game-point in the second, he could well have created the first major upset of the tournament. But Sushmit eventually managed to win 9-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-3, 11-5, 12-10 and set up a round of 32 face-off against North Bengal’s Mainak Das later in the night.