Nikhat Banu clinched bronze in the junior girls (under 18 years) team championships in the French Open table tennis tournament held at Rennes, Vernsur Seiche, France recently. France A and B bagged the gold and silver respectively in the ITTF Pro Tour event that had over a dozen strong European teams competing, including Germany and host France.

The India A team comprising Mallika Bhandarkar, Manika Batra and Banu beat Sweden 3-1 in the quarterfinals.

Nikhat, a trainee of Secunderabad's Gujrati Seva Mandal and coached by Maduri Venugopal and T. Nagaraj, blanked Kristina Zetterstrom 3-0, posting in the process a facile 13-11, 11-6, 11-9 win. In the semifinals, however, the Indian girls lost to France B, 3-1.

It was a truly laudable performance from India's No. 4 in juniors, since Nikhat suffered from fever during the competition, not quite able to cope with temperatures that dropped at times to below 5 degrees Celsius.

The bland diet, which she found sickeningly sweet at times, only compounded her problems.

“It was invaluable exposure for me though and for the Indian teams,” she told The Hindu. The 16-year-old got to watch world No. 7 Sabine Winter and world No. 13 Petrissa Solja, both of Germany, when the duo was practising. “Their control and consistency are phenomenal, something we should really strive for,” she added.

The Indian squad was also stranded for five days in France on account of the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

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