Dharwad, September 8: On a day that saw a couple of men seeds falling by the wayside, No. 3 Harmeet Desai, who will be playing his first Asian Cup in a week’s time at Ahmedabad, must be the most disappointed.
Unseeded Birdie Boro felled Harmeet 4-2 (5-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7) in a gripping battle of the LIC-IOC All India National Ranking Table Tennis Championships (South Zone) at the District Indoor Stadium here today. But the rot began even before Harmeet bowed out as former junior national champion Siddesh Pande of Maharashtra sent fifth seed Raj Mondal packing 4-3 (4-11, 11-8, 5-11, 4-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-5) to enter the pre-quarterfinals.
Dangerous floater Nitin Thiruvengadam of Canara Bank was also on the verge of causing a major upset but failed to cash in on four match points when he led 10-6 and then another one after Sanil Shetty deuced to let seventh off the hook. Shetty won the marathon battle that lasted nearly 95 minutes 12-10, 9-11, 4-11, 7-11, 11-8, 16-14, 12-10.
Top seed Sharath began well but was stretched a bit by Tamil Nadu’s Ananth Devarajan, particularly in the fourth game. The rest of seeds faced little trouble in entering the pre-quarterfinals.
However, the matches between Siddesh and Raj and Sail and Nitin kept the audience glued to their vantage positions in the gallery and closer to the courts where the action was taking place.
Siddesh was 1-3 down and it looked like a cakewalk for Raj. But the youngster pulled out all stops and played brilliantly, matching every stroke of the experienced RBI paddler. The Maharashtra boy reeled out several winners, particularly in the last two games which studdned Mondal.
Similarly, Nitin will go back home equally disappointed after putting up a great show. One doesn’t get such an opportunity of a four match-point advantage and he must be ruing the crucial mistakes he committed.
As for Harmeet, who needed sufficient practice before the Ahmedabad event, was way off the mark falling short on occasions when Birdie decided to go on the rampage. In fact, Birdie was down 5-8 in the fifth game and managed to pull it back at 9-all only to lose steam. However, he didn’t take any further chance and shut his rival out with a clinical job in the next.
With men and women seeds jumping into fray for the first time, the focus naturally shifted from group qualifiers to the top paddlers in the morning. But it didn’t set the alarm bells ringing. All but one of them moved into the next round and they were joined by the tried and tested ones in the race to trophy.
Seventh seed Akula Sreeja from the Reserve Bank of India was the lone first-round victim in women singles as she went down to Moumita Datta of AAI. It was the most interesting morning match where the two equals were having a slug fest. In fact, Sreeja twice led in the match, first 2-0 and then 3-2.
But the AAI girl took wings and flew into the second round with some astonishing forehand winners, especially in the sixth, as she beat the seventh seed 8-11, 9-11, 14-12, 11-6, 8-11, 13-11, 11-8. She will next meet Yashini Sivashankar of Tamil Nadu, another promising youngster, who beat Kerala’s Maria Rony 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6.
Mouma Das, who duly booked her place in the main draw last night, had little problem in putting it across her PSPB colleague Mousumi Paul 11-4, 17-15, 11-7, 11-6. Of course, Mousumi put up some resistance in the second game which saw a few deuces and three game points being squandered by Mouma. She won the game and cleaned up Mousumi soon after.
Other important results (R-32): Anirban Nandi (Rlys) bt Sourav Sha (PSPB) 11-8, 12-10, 12-10, 12-10, Omkar Torgalkar (Mah) bt Utkarsh Gupta (Del) 11-7, 10-12, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, Sougata Sarkar (LIC) bt Jalay Mehta (Guj) 11-7, 11-6, 12-10, 11-8, Manav Thakkar (PSPB) bt Vivek Bhargava (Raj) 6-11, 11-6, 11-6, 13-11, 11-5, Subhajit Saha (PSPB) bt Jubin Kumar (PSPB) 11-9, 17-15, 15-13, 6-11, 11-8, Arjun Ghosh (AAI) bt Sanish Ambekar (Mah) 9-11, 11-7, 13-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8, Jeet Chandra (WB) bt Ronit Bhanja (WB) 11-6, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8, A. Amalraj (PSPB) bt Anirban Ghosh (WB) 12-10, 11-6, 10-12, 11-5, 11-3, Abhishek Yadav (PSPB) bt Jignesh Jaiswal (Guj) 11-6, 11-9, 12-10, 11-7, Ravindra Kotiyan (Rlys) bt Sushmit Sriram (AAI) 11-2, 5-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-5, 5-11, 11-5, Sudhanshu Grover (PSPB) bt Devesh Karia (Guj) 5-11, 11-3, 11-1, 11-4, 11-5, G. Sathiyan (PSPB) bt Sivananda Sehsadrai (Central Revenue) 11-8, 11-6, 11-7, 11-1.