Nikhat Banu of Hyderabad and Karnam Spoorthy of Vijayawada quite often represent the State in national competitions

A good rapport on and away from the table have enabled Nikhat Banu and Karnam Spoorthy become the country’s top women’s ping pong pair.

Spoorthy, based in Vijayawada and Nikhat in Hyderabad, practise together mostly before or during major events. Both have studies to bother about since they miss classes quite often when representing the State in national and international competitions.

Their association began last year in the Public Sector Unit (PSU) tournament at Jaipur. In the 2012 Youth Nationals, the duo finished runner-up to Pooja Sahasrabudhe and Ankita Das. The bond strengthened further when they claimed bronze at the Inter Institutionals at Kolkata last year after they bowed out to the formidable combo of Poulomi Ghatak and Mouma Das.

“I slow down the pace with a chop attack, to which opponents respond with the push. Spoorthy pounces on that to close out the point,” says Nikhat of their pet tactic, which also makes them a good combination.

Their road to triumph in the recent Senior Nationals at Raipur was not an easy one though, each of their contests going into extended sets, starting with a scare in the second round itself against Helly Shah and Frenaz Chipia of Gujarat.

In the pre-quarter-finals, the teenage twosome prevailed against the most experienced opposition comprising Anindita Chakraborthy and Shreya Ghosh of Indian Railways. In the last eight stage, they got the better of Divya Deshpande and Mamta Prabhu of Maharashtra.

In the semis, they subdued Ankita Das, the London Olympian and K. Shamini, crowned the women’s singles champion. Pitted against Pooja Sahasrabudhe and Madhurika Patkar in the final, the 16-14 verdict in the opening game came as a shot in the arm for the AP duo.

“In the second game, they played well, not missing anything,” recalled Nikhat. The Loyola Academy B Com student then resorted to her favourite ploy, engaging her backhand defensive rubber to put the brakes on the pace.

Their Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) opponents, until then used to standing a little away from the table for the fast paced rallies, found themselves foxed often by the short ball. Nor did it give them room to attack.

The AP pair, who also turn out for the Airports Authority of India (AAI), won the third game 11-7 and the decider at 11-5 to record their maiden victory in the nation’s most prestigious event.

Keywords: Ping Pong