Soumyajit Ghosh isn’t cherubic any more. The reigning National table tennis champion has lost nearly five kgs to become fighting fit and make a lasting mark in the International arena. The 20-year-old from North Bengal, but representing PSPB in the Senior National and inter-State table tennis championships here, is in no mood to relinquish his National singles title.

The rigours of six Pro-Tours, a Commonwealth Championship (in New Delhi), an Asian championship (in Korea) and a stint with the top division Swedish club last year have done a world of good for the paddler.

“After the National championship in Raipur in 2013, it has been quite hectic for me. The best performance was making the doubles quarterfinals (with Harmeet Desai) of the Japan Open. We created history. I have lost around 4-5 Kg. It was the physical part that was more challenging,” said Soumyajit.

Ghosh said after the weight loss he is feeling light and moving well, which has given him the required confidence to take on higher-ranked opponents, both domestic and International. “It’s a great feeling,” he said.

Ghosh realises the importance of the year as India will be competing in two important assignments, the Commonwealth Games (Glasgow) and the Asian Games (Incheon, South Korea). “It is a crucial year for us. We have to perform well at any cost,” he said.

Having lost on two previous occasions in the final, Sharath Kamal, India’s star paddler, wasn’t hiding his emotions. “I am here to win. I want to take what is rightfully mine,” he said.

In the qualifying matches (Stage I) where 93 team (men & women) matches have been scheduled, the women’s pre-quarterfinalists were spotted.

Reigning champion Delhi scripted identical 3-0 victory margins over Chandigarh and Bihar to top Group A and enter the pre-quarterfinals.

Title aspirant PSPB topped Group B with 3-0 margins over Haryana and Jharkhand. While Maharashtra A emerged the leader in Group C, Tamil Nadu posted 3-0 wins over Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Meghalaya and topped  Group D.

Though Gujarat took the top spot in Group E, there was a tough fight between Assam and Punjab to decide the second spot from the group. Assam edged out Punjab 3-2 to make the grade. Assam’s Mahasweta Batsallya was the star performer as she won both her singles matches and ensured her team enter the pre-quarterfinals.

Pre-quarterfinals list: Women: Group A: Delhi, Chandigarh; B: PSPB, Haryana; C: Maharashtra A; Odisha; D: TN, Rajasthan; E: Gujarat, Assam; F: West Bengal, AP; G: AAI, Kerala; H: North Bengal, Maharashtra ‘B’.

Pre-quarterfinals line-up (Stage II): Women: Delhi vs Kerala; Assam vs North Bengal, West Bengal vs Haryana; Tamil Nadu vs Odisha; Maharashtra ‘A’ vs AP; Rajasthan vs AAI; Gujarat vs Maharahstra ‘B’; Chandigarh vs PSPB.

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