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Arjun's precision, Sreeja's focus put them in semifinals


Indore, June 21: Manav Thakkar failed to cash in on two match-points in the sixth game while he saved five of them in the decider which went in vain as West Bengal’s Arjun Ghosh marched into the semifinals of the 11Even Sports National Ranking (Central Zone) Table Tennis Championships at Abhay Prashad Indoor Stadium here today.


Arjun will now take on Raj Mondal, who beat Subhajit Saha 4-1 in the semifinals, while top-seed G. Sathiyan defeted Sourav Saha 4-2 when the latter conceded due to a shoulder injury—Sathiyan was leading 6-1 at that time—will clash with Harmeet Desai, who outsmarted Sougata Sarkar of LIC 4-2.


Another big story to emerge on the day was that of Sreeja Akula from Telangana, who is turning out to be the giant killer. After having scalped Manika Batra earlier in the day in women singles, she accounted for fifth seed Mousumi Paul, this time in straight games of 11-9, 11-5, 13-11, 11-7 to enter the quarterfinals.



Sreeja Akula about to return to Mousumi Paul in her quarterfinal match on Wednesday. (Photo by Aditya Gupta)


With the two edge-of-the-seat matches, for different reasons, keeping spectators glued to the respective tables, the other quarterfinals in both sections were pushed to the background, even though third seed Pooja Sahasrabuddhe was sent packing by another qualifier, Takeme Sarkar of West Bengal, who won 4-1.


Manav was on the cusp of beating his West Bengal rival in the sixth game. But credit must go to Arjun for the way he pushed Manav and forced him into unforced errors to get a lease of life. 


Even after ensuring that there was no respite from the PSPB’s Manav who surged ahead with a 3-1 lead. However, Arjun pulled himself back into the game, first leveling the score and then going great guns with a lead of 7-4 and then 10-6. After deuce, he had one match point but Arjun converted the sixth to romp home winners.


The match was full of rallies and fast paced. None willing to yield an inch, the intensity grew by the point and lasted the full course. What separated the two was some great placing by Arjun which fetched him crucial winners when it seemed Manav was gaining upper hand. A few net errors also put paid to Manav’s ambitions.


As compared to the Manav-Arjun needle match, Sreeja’s win over Mousumi Paul seemed pedestrian. But the way Sreeja launched herself from the first game, it was all over bar the shouting for the PSPB’s seasoned campaigner. The Telangana girl picked from where she left off in the previous round against Manika and pressed the gas pedal as if she was in a hurry to return to the hut for a well-deserved rest. Except for the third game, which Sreeja won 13-11, there was never ever a threat to Sreeja who went about the demolition job clinically. Now she will meet top seed Madhurika Patkar who beat Ayhika Mukherjee, a TTFI wildcard entry, in the semifinal tomorrow.



Arjun Ghosh serves to Manav Thakkar in his quaterfinal match.(Photo by Aditya Gupta)


The other semifinal will pit Suthirtha Mukerjee against Takeme Sarkar. Suthirtha beat Divya Deshpande 4-2.


The morning session saw some shocking exits as Sanil Shetty, seeded No. 2, surrendered meekly to young Arjun Ghosh when the latter whipped him 4-0.


Even top-seed G. Sathiyan, down 0-2 very early, had to summon his skills to outsmart another West Bengal paddler, Ronit Bhanja. But the rest sailed into the quarters rather easily even as big slayer Sushmit Sriram bowed out.


Manika Batra, a slow starter, found little girl from Telangana  Sreeja Akula too hot to handle. Down 0-2 the No. 4 seed did well to level score at 2-2 but Sreeja played far better on the day to subdue the former national champion 4-3, with the decider reaching the crescendo. Seventh and eighth seeds and former national champions Poulami Ghatak and Ankita Das followed suit. Poulami went down fighting 2-4 to Divya Deshpande and Ayhika Mukherjee blanked out Ankita 4-0.


Soham shines

The unending saga of seeds failing to sprout in dry summer got extended to the Youth Boys section as well when Soham Bhattacharya, who shifted his loyalty from West Bengal to Kerala, continued his victory march into the quarterfinals when he beat Jeet Chandra of West Bengal 6-11, 12-10, 12-10, 14-12 in a marathon.


Earlier in the day, the Stag-YMCA Alleppey TT Academy boy had sent eighth seed and former national junior champion Siddhesh Pande of Maharashtra in straight games of 11-8, 11-8, 11-8 in the pre-quarters. The Kerala boy would now run into top seed Manav Thakkar in the quarterfinals tomorrow.


Other winners that moved into the quarters include Ravindra Kotiyan, Utkarsh Gupta of Delhi, Ronit Bhanja of West Bengal, Ambesh Saniskar of Maharashtra and Akash Nath of North Bengal.


Quarter-final results:


Men singles: (1) G. Sathiyan (PSPB) bt Sourav Saha (PSPB) 12-10, 8-11, 11-6, 11-5, 8-11, 6-1 conceded; (4) Harmeet Desai (PSPB) bt Sougata Sarkar (LIC) 11-5, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-7; Raj Mondal (RBI) bt (6) Subhajit Saha (PSPB) 11-8, 11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-9; Arjun Ghosh (WB) bt (7) Manav Thakkar (PSPB) 6-11, 11-6, 11-5, 4-11, 8-11, 14-12, 14-12.


Women singles: (1) Madhurika Patkar (PSPB) bt Ayhika Mukherjee (TTFI) 3-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-2, 11-9; Sreeja Akula (TEL) bt (5) Mousumi Paul (PSPB) 11-9, 11-5, 13-11, 11-7; Takeme Sarkar (PSPB) bt Pooja Sahasrabudhe (PSPB) 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9; (2) Sutirtha Mukherjee (WB) bt Divya Deshpande (PSPB) 11-5, 18-16, 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8.