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Should have won against Manika in the quarterfinals: Sreeja

Looking ahead: Coach Ghosh expects Sreeja to be part of the team for the Asian championships .  

What Sreeja Akula did as a qualifier in the WTT-Contender table tennis tournament in Budapest recently was quite a revelation.

Ranked 150 in the world, the 23-year-old played three draining rounds in the qualifying, went on to outplay Linda Bergstrom (WR 78) from Sweden in the first round, and then overcame Barbora Balazova (WR 53) of Slovakia, before losing to Manika Batra (WR 60) in the women's singles quarterfinals.

In fact, in the last-eight clash against Manika, the 23-year-old was up by two games to one and leading 9-3. With just two points from sealing a place in the semifinals, Sreeja allowed the reigning National champion to make a comeback.

“Against Manika di, I should have won. She used her experience well. But on the whole, I am happy with the way I played in Budapest. This is my best show at a global event with such higher-ranked players. Beating Linda, a defensive paddler, against whom we don’t get to play regularly and overcoming Balazova was a huge morale-booster,” Sreeja told The Hindu on Saturday.

Big boost

Sreeja's personal coach, Somnath Ghosh, said Sreeja aggravated her right shoulder injury after the Senior National Championships in February 2021, and to play the way she did at Budapest was fantastic. "Now she is alright. Her performance is certainly a big boost. But losing to Manika from that position was heartbreaking,” he said.

Ghosh said Sreeja, now sponsored by LakshyaSports, has been getting good results in the last couple of years. “In 2019, she won two National ranking tournaments in Sonepat and Thane, and reached the semifinals of the 2021 Senior Nationals, losing to Manika,” he said.

Ghosh expects Sreeja to be part of the Indian women's team for the Asian TT championships from September 28 to October 5 in Doha. “She is the 6th ranked Indian in the world according to International Table Tennis Federation rankings, but No.1 in the domestic rankings. I believe the Table Tennis Federation of India will make the right call,” he said.

Sreeja is currently in the city of Olomouc for the Czech International Open, a WTT Feeder series. “I want to go all-out and do well in the tournament,” she said.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 6:56:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/should-have-won-against-manika-in-the-quarterfinals-sreeja/article36049527.ece

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