Thane: Manav Thakkar, playing true to his seeding position, stamped his authority yet again this season to claim the second successive men singles trophy when he beat Sanil Shetty 4-1 in the final of the UTT National Ranking (West Zone) Table Tennis Championships at the Sulochana Devi Singhania School here today.
A little before that, Sreeja Akula of the Reserve Bank of India showed her mettle, especially when almost down and out, to snatch the women singles crown out of the grasp of Railways’ Takeme Sarkar. The RBI girl won the thriller of a final 4-3 for her second title of the season.
Manav, who missed it out in the first two national ranking events at Sonepat and Thiruvananthapuram, warmed up with his first one at Howrah during the East Zone championships. And here, he was determined right from the word go against Mumbai man and his PSPB teammate, Sanil Shetty.
Manav always held the upper hand and led 2-0 before conceding the third to the left-hander who was not good at receiving. So much so, he was unable to exploit the natural left-hander’s angle. But the top-seed simply ran over him in the next and by the fifth game, it was all over bar the shouting for Sanil.
The little girl from Telangana has grown in stature in recent times and it was very much evident even in adversity. Sreeja was down 1-3 and her body language was not suggestive of an impending fight back. Nor was there any chance for her, particularly when Takeme was reigning supreme in the sixth game, first leading 1-4 and then 9-5.
Given the situation and an unwilling Sreeja making far too many mistakes, the title was for the taking of Takeme. But Sreeja inched her way slowly but surely and narrowed down the lead to 8-9. That is when the Railway paddler took her timeout but it rather helped Sreeja to go 10-9 up.
When Takeme deuced, she held the advantage with some pressure still on her opponent. But the RBI paddler seemed to relish it as she wrested the gain from Takeme at 11-all to take her score to 12-11 and then finish it off in style on her serve.
This brought back her confidence for the decider as she led 5-4 when they changed sides. After that she allowed just two points to the Railway player who had by then become impatient. And a superb forehand winner from Sreeja only enhanced her reputation as a courageous girl who can upset all calculations.
In Junior Boys and Girls singles, mostly the favourites went through the motions to move into the quarterfinals, to be played tomorrow. However, the Youth Boys and Youth Girls quarterfinals are slated for later this evening.
However, there was a notable upset in Junior Girls as third-seed Anargaya Manjunath of Karnataka bowed out in the round of 32 when qualifier Vedhalakshmi Devi of Tamil Nadu defeated her 11-5, 8-11, 11-5, 11-3. But the TN girl failed to seize the advantage and went down to Poymantee Baisya of West Bengal in the pre-quarters 2-11, 7-11, 8-11.
Men Singles: Final: Manav Thakkar (PSPB) bt Sanil Shetty (PSPB) 11-4, 11-8, 8-11, 11-2, 11-9; Semi-finals: Manav Thakkar bt Manush Shah (Guj) 12-10, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7; Sanil Shetty bt Jeet Chandra (Har) 11-6, 12-10, 11-4, 11-5.
Women Singles: Final: Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Takeme Sarkar (Rlys) 12-10, 9-11, 5-11, 9-11, 11-4, 13-11, 11-7; Semi-finals: Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Diya Chitale (Mah) 11-2, 15-13, 11-7, 11-3; Takeme Sarkar (RSPB) bt Kaushani Nath (RSPB) 11-3, 11-5, 11-4, 7-11, 11-3.