Tokyo, Apr 29 UNI | 3 months ago

India's men and women paddlers notched up their third successive wins to make a smooth progress in Stage 1 of the 2nd division group matches at the World Table Tennis Championships here today.

Though, the men paddlers were expected to put it across Australia, which they did winning 3-1, there was a doubt about the women's team, who were taking on both Portugal and Turkey, particularly the latter, whose Gokec Nur Gungor was a touted to be a tough opponent.

Nevertheless, the Indian women first accounted for Portugal 3-1 and blanked out Turkey 3-0 to keep a clean slate in the championships so far.

K Shamini first defeated Ipek Karahan 11-4, 12-10, 11-4 to give a rousing start and Manika Batra, in the best form of her life here, made a fine comeback after losing the first set to beat Gungor 5-11, 11-9, 11-8, 8-11, 11-8 to put India 2-0 up. Then it was left to Madhurika Patkar to complete the formality against Sanem Sahin 11-6, 11-7, 6-11, 11-6.

Earlier, they met Portugal and Manika Batra gave India the lead by beating Rita Fins 7-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7. Though K. Shamini lost her singles to Ana Neves 6-11, 11-5, 9-11, 6-11, Madhurika Patkar won against Leila Oliveira11-7, 11-5, 11-8 to put India in the lead again. It was clever of coaches Peter Engel and Bhawani Mukherjee to make Shamini play the third singles instead of Manika and they were on mark as Shamini, after trailing 0-2 came back nicely to beat Fins 3-2 (9-11, 7-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-6).

The women's team has two more matches against Italy and Bulgaria tomorrow and if they beat both and take the top perch in group G, they will have done them a great favour of making the quarterfinals cut. "The way they are performing, I am sure they will cross the hurdles without much ado," said national coach Bhawani Mukherjee.

As for the men, Achanta Sharath Kamal began the proceedings against Australia beating David Powell 11-9, 11-7, 7-11, 11-8 which the Indian should have won in straight sets. With his backhand working really, Sharath was all over his opponent to dispose him of quickly. Then national champion Sanil Shetty beat Heming Hu 9-11, 11-9, 13-11, 8-11, 11-3 and Harmeet Desai completed the task with a win over Kane Townsend 11-6, 11-7, 11-7.

In the evening, the Indian men defeated Iran 3-2 after a bit of struggle, thanks to the experienced Sharath Kamal who won both his singles. First he defeated Nima Alamian 5-11, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9, but Harmeet Desai lost his match to Noshad Alamiyan in straight sets, putting pressure on Soumyajit Ghosh. But the latter too crumbled losing to Afsin Noroozi 1-3.

With a 1-2 score-line, the pressure was back on Sharath who beat Noshad 5-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5 to restore parity. Then Harmeet Desai played true to his potential and accounted for Nima 8-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-8.

Engel complimented both Sharath and Desai, saying the latter played a very good third game which was very crucial to the outcome of the result. "He was brilliantly attacking and that helped as Nima was forced into net errors. After taking that game, Desai was brilliant to shut his opponent out in the fourth," said Engel.

The Indians have both Italy and Paraguay to take in their group F and the coaches believe that they would be able to top the group and go into the quarterfinals.

The men and women teams had opened their campaign yesterday with victories over Argentina and Nigeria, respectively.

(Posted on 30-04-2014)