New Zealand virtually put paid to India's hopes of topping the group with a 3-2 victory in the women's second round league match in the Commonwealth Games table tennis team event at the Yamuna Sports Complex here on Monday.

As expected, defending champion, the Indian men's team, blanked Vanuatu 3-0 in its first round match.

With lightweights Ghana and Sri Lanka in its group, the Indian women had to defeat New Zealand to top the group and avoid a stronger team in the second stage.

It had defeated Sri Lanka 3-0 in the first round.

India got off a blazing start against New Zealand with K. Shamini playing at her attacking best in the first rubber against Annie Yang. Shamini 11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7 victory gave India a head-start.

Her block was solid and her forehand was executed perfectly almost throughout the match. Yang couldn't force the pace as Shamini was quicker off the blocks in finishing off the points.

Though Yang varied her serves quite often, Shamini was able to return them without major difficulty.

Karen Li, one of the most the experienced paddlers in the Games having won a bronze in the women's doubles and team events in the 2002 edition, equalised with a 11-4, 11-4, 11-4 drubbing of Madhurika Patkar in the second rubber. The 33-year-old Kiwi retrieved hard and her backhand blocks and loopy top-spun forehands backed by her supreme fitness paved way for an easy victory.

Mouma Das showed India the way. Her forehand, with a wide backswing, has always been her strength and she put it to good use in defeating Sun Yang 11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9.

Then, the top of the best players from both teams, Shamini and Karen Li took the stage for the fourth rubber. Again it was Li's fitness and experience that prevailed. The Kiwi won 4-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-5, 11-4.

With the rubber tied 2-2, Madhurika met Yang in the decider. The Indian was impressive in patches but inconsistent. The Indian had a game point at 13-12 in the third game, but Yang took her chances to script a 11-6, 11-13, 15-13, 11-9 win.

India's chief coach Bhawani Mukherjee said he was not totally unhappy with the result. “We played a close match. We didn't lose easily. Both Madhurika and Shamini had their chances. We might finish second in the group and hope we don't face Singapore in the second stage.”

Defending champion in the women's section, Singapore eased past Guernsey and Canada in its group.

It will take on Tanzania next. While the Indian women's team plays Ghana, the men's team takes on Guyana on Tuesday.

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