Sagarika Mukherjee, a bespectacled 16-year-old turned out to be the new star at the 75th senior National and inter-State table tennis championships enabling North Bengal blank West Bengal 3-0 in the women’s team semifinals at the Patliputra Sports Complex here on Wednesday.
For the title North Bengal will play Petroleum Sports Promotion Board, which routed Airports Authority of India 3-0, in the other semifinal.In the men’s summit clash, PSPB will lock horns with West Bengal.
PSPB men had it easy against Gujarat winning 3-0, while West Bengal defeated Haryana 3-1.
While this is the second time that the WB men’s team is reaching the final — after the 2011 edition in Kolkata — PSPB is in the final for the 12th successive year.
After an impressive quarterfinal victory over defending champion Delhi where Sagarika clinched both her ties, defeating Sanya Sehgal and then stunning Manika Batra, she came back even stronger in the semifinals.
Taking on four-time National champion Mouma Das in the second rubber, Sagarika played confidently to win in straight games.
Earlier, a much-improved Nandita Saha provided NB a head-start with a hard-fought five-game win over Sutirtha Mukherjee.
Sagarika doesn’t have a strong weapon as such, but is consistent off both flanks; the backhand push gets her a lot of points.
Mouma, on the other hand, made a lot of unforced errors on her favourite stroke, the top- spin forehand.
Trailing 9-10 in the third game, Mouma saved one match point, but Sagarika hit two consecutive winners — a forehand down-the-line and a backhand push that found the edge — to seal the match.
It was believed that the seven-time National champion Poulomi Ghatak would pull one back for West Bengal against Sukanya Bose in the third rubber.
However, Poulomi lost tamely. She even led 10-4 in the second game only to lose it 12-10. Sukanya gained in confidence and closed out the match.
NB has finished runner-up on four occasions: 2006 (Jaipur), ’08 (Siliguri), ’09 (Patna) and ’12 (Lucknow).
After under-performing in the last two editions, PSPB’s hunger for the title would be greater than ever before.
The results: Men: Semifinals: PSPB bt Gujarat 3-0 (Soumyajit Ghosh bt Jignesh Jaiswal 11-3, 11-8, 11-2; Sharath Kamal bt Devesh Karia 10-12, 11-6, 11-3, 11-7; Harmeet Desai bt Hardik Bhatt 11-4, 11-5, 11-8); West Bengal bt Haryana 3-0 (Sourav Saha bt Sourav Chakraborty 11-9, 11-7, 11-9; Soumyadeep Roy bt Zubin Kumar 10-12, 11-3, 11-5, 11-7; Sougata Sarkar bt Sarthak Gandhi 11-7, 11-7, 5-11, 11-6).
Quarterfinals: PSPB bt Maharashtra ‘B’ 3-0; Gujarat bt Maharashtra ‘A’ 3-1; Haryana bt TN 3-1; West Bengal bt RSPB 3-2.
Women: Semifinals: PSPB bt AAI 3-0 (K. Shamini bt Ayhika Mukherjee 13-11, 11-5, 11-3; Madhurika Patkar bt Krittwika Sinha Roy 12-10, 11-5, 11-7; Neha Aggarwal bt Nikhat Bhanu 11-2, 7-11, 119, 12-10); North Bengal bt West Bengal 3-0 (Nandita Saha bt Suthirtha Mukherjee 11-5, 11-7, 7-11, 6-11, 11-9; Sagarika Mukherjee bt Mouma Das 13-11, 11-7, 12-10; Sukanya Bose bt Poulami Ghatak 11-9, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5).
Quarterfinals: North Bengal bt Delhi 3-1; West Bengal bt TN 3-0; AAI bt Maharashtra ‘A’ 3-1; PSPB bt Maharashtra ‘B’ 3-0.