India’s Soumyajit Ghosh and Sanil Shetty fought back spectacularly to storm into the main draw of the Seamaster 2017 World Tour India Open here at the Thyagaraj Stadium on Tuesday, the opening day of the $150,000 mega table tennis tournament.
Soumyajit, a double Olympian and one of India’s best hopes along with Achanta Sharath Kamal, had to dig deep into his well of experience to quell a strong challenge from Saudi Arabia’s Ali Alkhadrawi 4-3. He began slowly, going down 6-11, 9-11 before he got into his groove.
The Siliguri lad won the third game 11-6 but lost the next 12-14 to be looking at the prospect of an unexpected upset. But he started attacking the left-handed Alkhadrawi’s body more to rattle him. By then, Soumyajit was in his elements, putting up a solid defensive game while going for the kill at every conceivable opportunity.
He won the crucial last three games 11-5, 11-6 and 11-8 and let out a delighted scream when he finally wrapped up the match.
“I chose a wrong strategy to begin with, playing safe,” a visibly charged up Soumyajit said after the victory. “I should have attacked right from the beginning. I changed my tactics midway through and focused more on his weak points. That proved to be crucial in the last game,” he added.
Soumyajit conceded that he was very nervous in the final game and simply tried to keep the ball on the table. “I was very tense but I guess that’s what helped me win eventually,” he said.
He had won his opening match in the morning, beating his young compatriot Jeet Chandra 4-0, to seal his place in the main draw. He needed just 17 minutes to wrap up the contest 11-7, 11-6, 11-3, 11-4.
Sanil Shetty also got off to a flying start in the morning, trouncing Ronit Bhanja in straight games. But he was up against a much stronger opponent in his second match: Lubomir Jancark of Czech Republic.
It proved to be a fascinating contest between two equals, with both valiantly battling for every point. Sanil was always behind in the game, losing the first third, and the fifth games. Each time he restored parity but in the decider too he quickly fell behind. He, however, kept fighting and saved three match points to finally go up 15-14 for his first chance. A forehand drive game him the point, game and match to the delight of his supporters.
India’s young talent Manav Thakkar, however, wasn’t so lucky as he went down to the top seed in the qualifiers, Joao Geraldo of Portugal despite winning the first game. He managed to annex one more game and looked poised to take the contest into a decider but a backhand error saw him losing the sixth game too for a commendable 11-9, 9-11, 3-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-13 display.
He beat Arjun Ghosh 4-1 in the morning to stand a chance of still making it as a second placed finisher, assuming that Geraldo will win his game against Arjun Ghosh on Wednesday.
In the women’s singles action, recently crowned national champion Madhurika Patkar started off well by beating compatriot Krritwika Roy 4-1 to take the early lead in Group 1. She, however lost to Suthirtha Mukherjee later in the day which might not help her in the main draw.
Archana Kamath and Priyanka Pareek won both their qualifying matches to give themselves the opportunity of facing a lower ranked player in the tournament proper.
In the under-21 men’s singles, three Indians advanced to the next round while five bit the dust. Birdie Boro of Guwahati beat compatriot Manav Thakkar 09-11,12-10,09-11,11-06,11-05 to lead the charge.
In the under-21 women’s singles too, four Indians won their first-round matches while five suffered defeats. National champion Madhurika Patkar, Priyanka Pareek, Archana Kamath, Sreeja Akula and Ayhika Mukherjee were among the winners.