Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ayhika Mukherjee reached the round of 16 in the Volkswagen world junior table tennis championships here on Friday night. Compatriot Manika Batra had no such luck as she succumbed to fifth seed Bernadette Szocs of Romania.

Szocs’ blistering backhand down-the-line returns tilted things her way in the opening game of her second round match against Batra. All too conscious that the Indian was using an anti-spin rubber on her backhand, Szocs bombarded Batra’s forehand more.

Punchy top-spin

The Romanian made the most of Batra’s serve that lacked sting, building up momentum to end the exchange on the fourth ball, more often than not. Bernadette wrested the initiative from the start of each game, the turn of events dictated largely by pretty punchy top-spin.

The power the fifth seed packed into one backhand counter drive belied the diminutive size of the player who generated it. Manika dominated the rallies with her counters in the two games she won but in the decider Szocs upped the pace to an 11-8, 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 5-11, 11-3 victory.

Sutirtha’s overtly aggressive game thrived on Caroline Kumahara’s many errors. The former showed no fear in facing the tournament’s 14th seed. Before long the Indian had walked away with the first three games. Slackening her pace saw Sutirtha surrender games four, five and six as the Brazilian called the shots with her searing drives.

In the decider Sutirtha held her nerve to prevail 11-2, 11-5, 11-8, 5-11, 7-11, 13-15, 11-8. Two tables away, tremendous variation in spin enabled Ayhika Mukherjee defeat Korea’s Dasom Lee 6-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-8, 12-10.

In the first round, after withstanding a third-game setback, Sutirtha recouped to overcome Sandra Wabik of Poland.

Deploying diagonal returns frequently, Sutirtha had the big built Pole on the run for five sets before winning 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8.

Ayhika’s match against Hoi Kem Doo stretched to seven sets. Certain that if the Hong Kong lass played her fast game, the going would be tough, Ayhika slowed the pace down considerably.

The Bengal girl then took recourse to chops and pushes, her predominantly half-arm strokeplay ensuring prudence was the better part of valour.

Sure enough, this unsettled the eight-seeded Doo, who countered with a similar approach.

Being a naturally attacking player, the fuzzy-haired islander couldn’t quite contain herself in a defensive mode and retraced to offence. Pumping up the pace proved costly as her game grew replete with errors and she succumbed 8-11, 13-11, 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 10-12, 8-11.

The results (Indians, first round): Junior boys: Lee Chia Cheng (Tpe) bt Sudhanshu Grover 11-5, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-6; Antoine Hachard (Fra) bt Rohit Rajasekhar 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4, 11-9; Lin Gaoyuan (Chn) bt Arjun Ghosh 11-3, 11-6, 11-1, 11-4.

Junior girls: Manika Batra bt Anja Schuh 11-9, 11-8, 11-7, 11-7; Britt Eerland (Ned) bt T. Reeth Rishya 12-10, 11-9, 11-7, 11-8; Gu Rouchaen (Chn) bt Karnam Spoorthy 11-3, 11-5, 12-10, 11-1; Ayhika Mukherjee bt Doo Hoi Kem 11-8, 11-13, 8-11, 5-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-8; Suthirtha Mukherjee bt Sandra Wabik (Pol) 4-11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8.


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