Indore (Madhya Pradesh): Fifteen-year-old Sayali Wani of Maharashtra had no baggage of the past. Nor did she fear her opponent’s reputation in the sub-junior girls final. With excellent cross-court topspin counters and loads of confidence, she outwitted Haryana’s Suhana Saini to win the crown 4-3 in the UTT 82nd Cadet & Sub-Junior National Table Tennis Championships at Abhay Prashal here on Monday.
Top-seeded Suhana led 3-2 but goofed it up in the crucial sixth game, allowing her Nasik rival to inch her way up the ladder. When Sayali won the game to level the score, it was anybody’s match from thereon. The credit must go to the 10th standard girl, who courageously saved a match point at 9-10. And when she made it 10-all, she grabbed the first chance to go 11-10 up and finish the game and match in style. Letting the unseeded Sayali take three points on the trot cost Suhana, not just the title but also Rs. 33,000 in prize money. Suhana had to satisfy herself with the runner-up trophy and Rs. 16,500.
From 1-5, 4-6, 8-10 down in the sixth game, and then claw your way back to make a match of it needs extraordinary courage. And Taneesha Kotecha showed it all on the table, first when 0-3 down and then during the sixth game. Eventually, she won 16-14 on the fourth game point to go level to give her a fair bit of chance in the decider. However, she failed to raise and lost her grip over the game, falling into the trap of Suhana, the ultimate winner who missed three match points. A few topspin forehands of Taneesha went flat, leaving Suhana the beneficiary.
One cannot blame the Maharashtra girl entirely for her loss. Luck was also on the Haryana girl’s side at crucial junctures, who raced into a comfortable lead. But the story is not how she won in the end. It’s about how Taneesha found her rhythm in the fourth game and played brilliantly from thereon.
She relied on the backhand, her strength. It worked well, and when employed with the occasional topspin forehand, she had a complete potent mixture. Suhana was forced into errors and kept slipping away from her commanding position. The Haryana girl came into herself in the decisive game to sew it up nicely.
In the second semifinal, Sayali Wani continued to surprise when she knocked out defending champion and statemate Pritha Vartikar 4-0. Equally surprising was the way Pritha went down without a fight. Pritha never went all out, making Sayali’s plans do the rest.
Hansini emerges winner
M Hansini, who faltered in the semi-final at Dharamsala, could not be denied her Cadet Girls title this time. She beat her Tamil Nadu rival, Ananya Muralidharan, 4-2. What stood out on the day was Hansini’s better reading of the situation. On the other hand, Ananya relied too much on her backhand blocks and drives. Rarely did she employ her forehand while Hansini was adept at doing both. Her topspin forehand winners often fetched rewards, paving the way whenever in trouble..The chief guest of the prize distribution was Indore Collector Manish Singh and Om Soni, TTFI , Vice President.On this occasion, Jayesh Acharya, Pramod Gangrade, Rinku Achara and Neelesh Viad were also present. The function was conducted by Gourav Patel.
Cadet Girls: Final: M. Hansini (TNTTA) bt Ananya Muralidharan (TTTA) 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-5, 11-9.
Semi-finals: M. Hansini bt Sanchari Chakrabarty (Ben) 11-7, 12-10, 13-11, 11-4, Ananya Muralidharan bt Prisha Goel (Del) 11-5, 8-11, 6-11, 11-3, 12-10, 11-5.
Sub-Junior Girls: Final: Sayali Wani (Mah) bt Suhana Saini (Har) 11-8, 7-11, 14-12, 5-11, 8-11, 11-7, 12-10.
Semi-finals: Suhana Saini bt Taneesha Kotecha (Mah) 11-6, 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 5-11, 14-16, 11-6, Sayali Wani bt Pritha Vartikar (Mah) 11-7, 11-6, 11-4, 11-6.