Event Section
Rusty Amalraj, Pooja stave off challenges


Indore, June 20: On a day when experience triumphed over youth power, Anthony Amalraj and Pooja Sahasrabuddhe, both third seeded, won their men and women singles to advance to the round of 32 in the 11Even Sports National Ranking (Central Zone) Table Tennis Championships at Abhay Prashad Indoor Stadium here today.


With the distinct advantage of seeding and enjoying first-round byes in main draw, they were playing their first match. Understandably, the pressure was telling more on the top-ranked players who were only meeting the qualifiers. Yet, Amalraj had the initial blues when she struggled past Abhimanyu Mitra of West Bengal who stretched him in the first game.


Unable to cope with the pressure applied by the left-hander, Amalraj lost the next two games before picking himself up to make it 2-2. But Abhimanyu upped the ante in the fifth game to claim it rather easily. And it was then that the third seed showed more determination even as the West Bengal lad committed far too many mistakes to let his renowned opponent off the hook. Winning the game 11-9, Amalraj pulled the shutters on Abhimanyu in the decider for 12-10, 8-11, 7-11, 11-4, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 win.



Pooja Sahasrabuddhe sends a forehand return to Anuska Dutta of North Bengal during her R-64 match


In another interesting men singles R-64 match, Madhya Pradesh’s Aher Prashant beat Vikram Aditya of Punjab 4-2. He was down 0-2 but went on to win the next four to progress. So did Sougata Sarkar of LIC, who put it across a resolute Vighney Reddy of RBI 11-8, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 9-11, 10-13, 11-4 and Ananth Devarajan of Tamil Nadu against Birdie Boro as the former won 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 7-11, 17-15, 11-6, 11-9.


Fourth seed Harmeet Desai, veteran Soumyadeep Roy, Anirban Ghosh, Devesh Karia, Manav Thakkar all moved into the next round while Delhi’s Utkarsh Gupta struggled past Abinay Vijay Babu of Tamil Nadu 11-5, 11-9, 5-11, 4-11, 12-10, 11-7 while Mizoram’s Lalrin Puia, the defensive player, found the going tough against Tamil Nadu’s Subash Mani, winning the match 11-7, 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 10-12, 11-8.


As for Pooja, she was down and almost out when she mustered courage to play her true potential and began her attack. It paid off rich dividends as she first won her second game. Picking her momentum from where she left off in the previous game, she gained so much that it was beyond the reach of Anuska who lost the opportunity presented to her on a platter.


The North Bengal girl lost her plot and the game and from there she was going downhill unable to withstand the pressure in the decider, much to the relief of Pooja and her husband-turned-coach….


In another interesting match in the round of 64, Railways’ veteran Anindita Chakraborty was playing against an opponent who was almost half her age. The Haryana girl Sanya Sehgal was in a fantastic position to wrap it up to move into the next round. But at 3-2 and 10-8 with her serve on, Sanya made the cardinal blunder and pushed against the wily veteran. As if waiting for the chance, she pounced on the chance to kill and then level 3-3. Then in the decider, pressure was telling on Sanya who didn’t show the determination to stay on as Anindita triumphed 11-8, 6-11, 11-7, 6-11, 5-11, 13-11, 11-8.


In other women singles matches, top-seeded Madhurika Patkar was taken some distance by qualifier Kaushani Nath from West Bengal. But the national champion won 10-12, 11-3, 11-5, 4-11. 11-9, 11-7 while Yashini Sivashankar escaped from the jaws of defeat against Delhi’s Garima Goyal, who lost from a winning position as the Tamil Nadu girl triumphed 12-10, 11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 9-11, 14-12, 11-6 in the first quarter, Pallabi Kundu of RBI beat Saswati Ghosh of MP in a nice duel to win 4-2, Himani Chaturvei, also from MP, fought valiantly in a losing cause to bow to West Bengal’s Poulami Das 10-12, 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5 in the second. Except for Pooja in the third quarter all other top players went through the motion while in the fourth, second seeded Suthirtha Mukherjee need to dust off the rust to post a 11-5, 12-19, 5-11, 11-13, 11-2, 11-8 win over Tamil Nadu’s Harshavardini.


With the round of 32 yet to be played later today, seeds cannot feel absolutely safe and sound until they see off the day.