India’s star player Manika Batra suffered a twin blow on Day 3 of Ultimate Table Tennis, featuring in two crushing defeats and handing Goa Challengers a massive 5-0 (11-4) victory over Mavericks Kolkata at the Thyagraj Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.
Manika first capitulated 0-3 in the opening Women’s Singles encounter to compatriot Archana Kamath, giving the 19-year-old her biggest victory in her blossoming career.
Manika then lost 1-2 in the Mixed Doubles too, pairing up with World No.55 Benedikt Duda, to see her team RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata slide to a huge loss. The Goa Challengers team rode on Archana’s early coup to demolish a seemingly strong Kolkata team in each of the first four clashes, with Spain’s Alvaro Robles and Amalraj Anthony/Cheng I-Ching scoring 2-1 wins in the Men’s Singles and Mixed Doubles.
India’s Amalraj followed up his good show with another upset, beating Germany’s Benedikt in the second Men’s Singles.
Earlier, Archana started the victory march for the Challengers as she picked up a stunning victory over Indian TT’s golden girl Manika in the opening Women’s Singles match of the tie.
Archana, India’s only women paddler to have qualified for the semifinals of the Youth Olympics, got off to a fiery start racing to a 5-2 lead. Manika launched a strong comeback and leveled the score 7-7 with an exotic forehand smash.
But Archana was in no mood to squander her chance and she raced to the game point with a powerful forehand return. Manika managed to save one game point but Archana eventually won the game 11-9.
The Challengers’ player was on a roll in the second game, cruising to a 7-4 lead. Manika did try to cut down the lead but Archana was all over her and pocketed the game 11-7 in a rather easy manner.
Having already lost the match, Mavericks Kolkata would have wanted their star player to salvage at least a point but Archana looked like a player possessed and sealed the game 11-3 to clinch all three points on offer.
Kolkata’s strategy to field Sanil Shetty against Alvaro Robles did not pay off as the Spaniard came from behind to deliver two points for his team. The opening game of the match lived up to the expectations with both the players involved in exquisite stroke-making and exciting long rallies.
Sanil won the opening game 11-10 and logged in the first point of the evening for the last year’s runners-up. But the World No.56 Spaniard came out a different player in the second game and was all over his opponent.
Sanil had no answers for the towering Challengers’ player and went down 4-11. The script did not change much in the final game as Alvaro cantered to a comfortable 11-5 victory to seal the match.
With a healthy lead of 5-1 after two matches, Challengers’ skipper Amalraj Anthony paired up with the highest ranked player of the league this season Cheng I-Ching in the Mixed Doubles encounter against the team of Manika Batra and debutant Benedikt Duda.
Kolkata won the opening game 11-8 and it looked like things could turn around for them. But the Goan pair got their act together to win the next two games 11-4 and 11-9 to swell the lead to 7-2 in their team’s favour.
With just a point away from sealing the tie, Amalraj made no mistake and despite starting on the back foot in his Men’s Singles clash against Duda, won the opening game 11-7 to all but wrap up the contest. Duda won the next game 11-10 but the Indian came back strong to win the final game 11-4.
World No.8, Cheng then stepped up to the table in the last rubber of the tie against World No. 25 Matilda Ekholm and completed the rout as she picked up a rather comfortable 2-1 victory.