India’s endeavours ended at the Volkswagen World junior table tennis championships at the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh indoor stadium on Monday when its girls’ squad lost its second and last engagement to Hong Kong 3-2, having thrown in the towel in the morning to South Korea 3-0.
Incidentally, Hong Kong had got the better of Korea 3-1, which had vanquished India 3-0 earlier in the day. Interestingly, the home side, ranked 13th, raised its playing levels remarkably in the evening to stretch Hong Kong, listed as sixth.
Manika Batra remained the Indian girls squad’s trump card, the steady ship in an otherwise shaky national fleet, after Reeth Rishya had capitulated to Hoi Kem Doo in the opening singles. Pushing Ching Wan Li farther from the table, Manika would squeeze out the short ball, which she would smash with aplomb and accuracy. Her court craft revolved around control enabled largely by the reach of her long arms that let little past her.
If Manika won the first game in facile fashion, the second went the distance, all the same in her favour at 13-11. Nerves seemed to get the better of her from game three, as she drifted away from the table and conceded the edge. The feebleness of her serve and lack of variety in it hardly helped matters, these frailties coming to the fore in games three and four, which Li won 11-8, 11-5.
Back to her aggressive self in the decider, Manika shot off to a 5-0 start, but lost the lead slip away as Li drew level. The dominance she displayed earlier seemed to desert her as she was perched at 10-9, but then she drew up on her last reserve of strength to pull through 11-9.
Wai Yam Minnie Soo had a bagful of tricky serves to bemuse Suthirtha Mukherjee, claiming the first game 11-9 mostly on the strength of her opening missives. Suthirtha settled scores in the second, but let go of the third. Not one to give up easily, Suthirtha held on gamely, running her rival close but buckling in the end.
Summoned again to pull India out of the rough, Manika played the fourth singles, this time against Kem Doo. The day’s toil seemed to have taken its toll on the Indian paddler, who lost the first two games 11-7, 11-5 and then staged a strong comeback to clinch the next three 15-13, 11-6, 11-9. In the decider, Reeth caved in 11-7, 11-7, 11-6.
In the morning, Indian coach Kamlesh Mehta seemed a satisfied man after his girls’ squad lost 0-3 to Korea. “They were beaten by a better team, after their good showing against France on Sunday,” said the several time national champion. Dwelling on the positives, he said the girls had handled their rallies quite ably. “They worked well especially on strategy,” Mehta added.
The Indian boys’ team takes on Egypt on Tuesday to decide places 15 and 16.
The results: (Stage 2): Junior boys: Group E: Japan bt Hungary 3-0; Japan bt Poland 3-1.Group F: France bt Hong Kong 3-0; France bt Brazil 3-0. Group G: China bt Belgium 3-0; China bt Chinese Taipei 3-0.Group H: South Korea bt Czech Republic 3-0; South Korea bt Germany 3-1. Junior girls: Group E: China bt Croatia 3-0; China bt Russia 3-0. Group F: Japan bt Chinese Taipei 3-0; Japan bt Germany 3-0. Group G: South Korea bt India 3-0 (Dasom Lee bt T. Reeth Rishya 10-12, 11-1, 13-11, 11-8, Yumi Jung bt Manika Batra 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 2-11, 11-8, Zion Lee bt Suthirtha Mukherjee 11-7, 8-11, 11-5, 11-4); Hong Kong bt South Korea 3-1; Hong Kong bt India 3-2 (Hoi Kem Doo bt T. Reeth Rishya 11-5, 11-3, 11-4, Ching Wan Li lost to Manika Batra 4-11, 11-13, 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, Wai Yam Minnie Soo bt Suthirtha Mukherjee 11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, Hoi Kem Doo lost to Manika Batra 11-7, 11-5, 13-15, 6-11, 9-11, Ching Wan Li bt T. Reeth Rishya 11-7, 11-7, 11-6).
Group H: Romania bt Netherlands 3-2; USA bt Romania 3-1.