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Hyderabad, January 28, 2020
Third-seeded Delhi men could not have asked for a better first-round draw in the second stage of the UTT 81st National Table Tennis Championships being held at the Saroonagar Indoor Stadium here today.
The favourable draw almost ensures them a place in the quarter-finals as they take on Assam in the pre-quarter-finals. However, they would need an important win against Bengal A and, if they manage it, would take them into the medal round of the team championships.
But it cannot be said of their women’s squad which straightaway runs into the second-seeded PSPB women, who had kept a clean slate in the group stages of the championships, thanks to the arrival of Madhurika Patkar from Portugal.
The Delhi men’s squad, comprising Sudhanshu Grover, Payas Jain, Utkarsh Gupta, Parth Virmani and Aadarsh Om Chetri, have the firepower to put it across Bengal A, consisting Arjun Ghosh, Ronit Bhanja, Akash Pal , Sougata Sarkar and Kiranjoy Pushilal.
Hosts Telangana, who upstaged Uttar Pradesh to top their group, have a distinct advantage of avoiding major seeds and are expected to go through to the medal round and could face top-seeded PSPB. UP, seeded fourth despite finishing second in their group, are placed in the bottom half of the draw where they take on Haryana in the opening round.
The surprise is the entry of Kerala men and women who have entered the main draws of both team events. In men’s event they finished second behind Railways while their women were pushed down to the second spot by Karnataka. But the latter’s men lost a spot in the pre-quarter-finals as they ended their campaign with a poor fourth-place finish in a five-team group of E.
But the biggest shock of the championships was the ouster of fancied Gujarat women, the quarter-finalists in the last edition, who crashed out as Haryana, boosted by the arrival of Sutirtha Mukherjee, topped the group with Assam following them. Incidentally, the loss to Assam yesterday in the group stage match cost the seventh-seed Gujarat dear.
Of the two Tamil Nadu teams—Tamizhga Table Tennis Association and Tamil Nadu Table Tennis Associations—both made it to the pre-quarterfinals in both sections. The two teams drawn in each half of the men’s draw don’t run into each other at least until the semi-finals but in the women’s draw both taking on one another in the second round is a possibility.
But then they have to cross the first-round hurdle as TNTTA meet top-seeded Bengal A, while TTTA clash with Telangana. Both Bengal A and Telangana are two strong sides and overcoming them in the pre-quarter-finals will be the main targets of the two Tamil Nadu teams.
Meanwhile the PSPB men’s squad did not need the support of Sharath Kamal or G. Sathiyan as they were taken to the designated spot by Harmeet Desai, Manav Thakkar and Sanil Shetty. However, their women suffered the loss of a rubber against Selenadeepthi Selvakumar who accounted for Krittwika Sinha Roy. Yet, Madhurika ensured that PSPB did not face any further ignominy.