India’s top paddler Manika Batra lost both her matches as the women’s team went down fighting to fifth seed Germany 2-3 in its opening group match of the World team table tennis championships in Chengdu, China on Saturday. Earlier, the Indian men blanked Uzbekistan 3-0.
After Manika lost her opening rubber to World No. 8 Ying Han, two young paddlers Sreeja Akula and Diya Chitale punched above their weight to script wins over much higher-ranked opponents to give a huge boost to the Indian team's chances.
Sreeja pulled off the biggest victory yet of her nascent career when she defeated World No. 14 Nina Mittelham 11-9, 12-10, 11-7, before Diya attacked relentlessly to script an 11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 13-11 win over Sabine Winter, World No. 46.
However, in the fourth rubber, Manika lost to Nina 11-7, 6-11, 7-11, 8-11. In the fifth and deciding rubber, Ying, one of the last surviving defenders on the professional circuit, put it across Sreeja in straight games.
Men: India bt Uzbekistan 3-0 [Harmeet Desai bt Elmurod Kholikov 11-9, 11-9, 11-1; G. Sathiyan bt Abdulaziz Anorboev 11-3, 11-6, 11-9; Manav Thakkar bt Shokhrukh Iskandarov 11-8, 11-5, 11-5].
Women: Germany bt India 3-2 (Ying Han bt Manika Batra 11-3, 11-1, 11-2; Nina Mittelham lost to Sreeja Akula 9-11, 10-12, 7-11; Sabine Winter lost to Diya Chitale 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-13; Nina bt Manika 7-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-8; Ying bt Sreeja 11-3, 11-5, 11-4].