Table Tennis: Arjun’s focus sends top-seed Manav tumbling out

Ajmer, November 29, 2019

In a remarkable match of one-upmanship, 12th-seeded Arjun Ghosh (AAI)  showed the stuff he is made of when he toppled No. 1 seed  Manav Thakkar 4-2 in the men's singles semi-final of the 49th Inter-Institutional Table Tennis Championships at the MCC Indoor Stadium here today.
In the final, he will take on another PSPB man, Sanil Shetty who, riding on a fine form, defeated Ronit Bhanja in straight games.
Earlier, in a fine comeback win, Arjun ousted fourth-seed Harmeet Desai 4-3 to earn a hard-fought quarter-final victory after being 1-3 down. Then, in the decider, fortunes swung from one extreme to another before Arjun won at 15-13 when Harmeet faulted with his service. Ronit had beaten Sushmit Sriram 4-1, while Manav won with a similar score against Anthony Amalraj and Shetty beat Abhishek Yadav 4-0.
In the match against Manav, Arjun was comfortably placed at 3-1 until the PSPB player, known for not giving up easily, unleashed his lethal blocks effectively and used forehand scorchers to pull one down. Then at deuce in the sixth game, Manav goofed up what was a good chance with his service on before Arjun clinched the last point when Manav’s counter to Arjun’s topspin went out.
Sanil, on a roll, found an easy prey in Ronit. Some immaculately measured down-the-line winners and some breathtaking drives from the left-hander were the highlights of the second semi-final. One must also give credit to the way Ronit responded with equal felicity and dotted with wonderful long rallies. In the end, Sanil proved a few notches above his junior on the day.
Archana must have been really upset after being 9-5 in the second game and letting Manika climb up from a slippery position which the former failed to take advantage of. From there, one could see the confidence of Manika rising as she inched her way up slowly, but surely. However, it was surprising for someone like Archana to be taking too much time to understand the gambit of Manika and playing into her hands.
That was the cardinal blunder she committed despite having her chances in the fifth game when it was moving neck and neck. The reigning national champion could not measure up to her own expectations. Whenever she attacked, it looked like she was gaining the upper hand. Looking back, Archana would rue the second game slip-up and certainly recall her quarterfinal against Sreeja Akula when she overcame a worse situation. At the same time, Manika would recall her 1-4 semi-final loss to Archana at the Cuttack Nationals and prepare herself satisfactorily for tomorrow’s final in peace.
Talking  of confidence, Reeth Rishya was the perfect example. Playing very consistently in a long time, the PSPB paddler stamped her authority throughout, including in the quarter-finals and in the semi-final against Krittwika Sinha Roy, who was the silver medalist at Cuttack. Reeth’s crispy forehands and the occasional backhand whips were all coordinated well. Even her blocks came in a measured way and they fetched equally quite a good number of points. All in all, the positivity in her was there for all to see.
Haryana’s pair of Jubin Kumar and Soumyajit Ghosh can go home with some satisfaction after beating the reputed pair from PSPB, Sanil Shetty and Sudhanshu Grover 3-0. In what turned out to be a one-sided men's doubles final, the Haryana duo showed maturity and determination to claim the trophy.
AAI’s mixed pair of Ronit Bhanja and Selenadeepthi Selvakumar redeemed with a gold medal when it defeated PSPB’s husband-wife duo of Sanil Shetty and Reeth Rishya 3-2 in a tough final, while Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula made up for earlier losses with an easy win in the women's doubles when the RBI women beat junior duo of Yashaswini Ghorpade and Vanshika Bhargava of AAI 3-0.
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