Sonepat: Former national champion Soumyajit Ghosh, yet to find his feet after returning to the fold, entered the men singles main draw after a mild scare from Dev Shroff of Maharashtra in the preliminary round of the UTT National Ranking (North Zone) Table Tennis Championships at the DPS School here on today.
With the top guns—G. Sathiyan and A.Sharath Kamal—opting out of the championships here, the title-race in men singles is likely to be between Manav Thakkar and Anthony Amalraj with the likes of Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty breathing down their necks when the main draw event begins later tonight.
But for now, the focus was more on Ghosh, who helped Haryana to men’s team title yesterday. With no ranking points to his credit—Ghosh missed all ranking events last year but participated in the nationals—he had to start from scratch here which meant playing the qualifiers.
With as many as 60 groups in the men section and pitted in a lower group, Ghosh topped his group but with the second stage draw limited to only 64 players, including the top 16 seeds, he had play the preliminary round to get into the main draw.
However, taking it on the chin the paddler quietly went about his task despite his opponent from Maharashtra, Dev Shroff, taking the first game which went close. But Ghosh nicely hit the groove from the second and won the next three game 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-6 without any hassle. Ghosh does realize that his job is not even half done and he would have to really work hard in the first tournament of the year.
Among the women, the top-eight seeds received first-round byes in the stage two of the draw and they would be seen in action from tomorrow.
Meanwhile, qualification events in Youth Boys and Girls got underway with boys divided into 48 groups while girls split into 32. Manav Thakkar, who leads the pack of eight seeded players, could face a tough time against his state mate, Manush Shah, who is just behind him. Then there are players like Jeet Chandra, Parth Virmani and SFR Snehit who are real contenders for the title.
Manav, who opened the season last year, with a title win in men singles, could still be focusing on winning the men singles title while keeping an eye on the Youth Boys. Fortunately, reigning national champion Archana Kamath is only concentrating on the women singles with former national champion Sutirtha Mukherjee and Madhurika Patkar, who is in better shape, to give the top-seeded woman a real challenge.
Earlier in the day, Raj Mondal of RBI bowed out in the group stage itself after failing to counter Gautam Duirvansh of Uttarakhand. Mondal went down 7-11, 8-11, 15-17 in Group 1. In fact, it should have been a cakewalk for the RBI paddler, who has represented India, but could not sustain the pace and guile of Gautam.
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