Favourites Gujarat men’s table tennis team gave their fans much to cheer about as they clinched gold without dropping a single set in the final against Delhi while West Bengal beat Maharashtra in the women’s final of the 36th National Games on Wednesday.
These were the first Gold medal matches in the National Games being held after seven years.
Maharashtra and West Bengal took the men’s bronze medals after their semifinal losses while Tamil Nadu and Telangana claimed the women’s bronze medals.
Gujarat, the top seed in the men’s tournament, was in roaring form since the start of the competition and the only question was if Delhi could at least put up a fight. The home team’s domination was so absolute that they did not drop a single rubber through the competition as they surged to open Gujarat’s account on the medal table.
Going into the final, the only change they made was that Manav Thakkar took captain Harmeet Desai’s place in the first singles match. Thakkar dominated Sudhanshu Grover in the opening set. Though the Delhi paddler put up a fight in the next two sets, he couldn’t find a way past the former junior World No. 1 and went down in straight sets 11-3, 13-11, 14-12.
Delhi would have hoped that Payas Jain could repeat his semi-final heroics but Harmeet Desai proved too strong for him. The Delhi lad managed to save four match points and threatened to make a comeback but the Gujarat skipper was in no mood to relent and clinched the first two extended points to give his team a 2-0 lead.
Manush Shah then defeated Yashansh Malik to wrap up the final and help the silver medallists from the last edition to rise higher on the podium on home turf.
Earlier, in the women’s final, the experience of Mouma Das and Sutirtha Mukherjee helped West Bengal get the better of Maharashtra’s young guns 3-1.
In a repeat of last edition’s summit clash, Maharashtra made a slight change to their line-up from their previous outings, getting Diya Chitale to play the third singles and pushing Swastika Ghosh to take the top spot. The youngsters, however, could not deal with Ayhika Mukherjee’s playing style and lost tamely.
Reethrishya Tennison then levelled the scores for the defending champions beating Sutirtha in straight games. Chitale now needed to beat Mouma Das to put Maharashtra ahead. The youngster started strong by winning the opening set 11-6 but it was her 38-year-old who frustrated her by making her work hard for every point.
Despite that Chitale did well to come back from 4-8 in the fourth game and earn two match points. She failed to convert them. Mouma Das then took advantage of the youngster’s emotional state and drove the advantage home to win the decider.
Swastika Ghosh put up a far better show in the reverse fixture against Sutirtha Mukherjee, taking the Tokyo Olympian to five sets. But the experienced Bengal paddler kept her nerves in the decider to take a sizeable lead and won on her second match point.
“There was not much to choose between both the teams. But Ayhika’s easy win in the first match and Mouma didi winning the third match the way she did gave me the confidence in the fourth,” said Sutirtha after clinching the rubber that gave them the title.
The results (finals):
Men: Gujarat beat Delhi 3-0 (Manav Thakkar bt Sudhanshu Grover 11-3, 13-11, 14-12; Harmeet Desai bt Payas Jain 11-7, 11-3, 12-10; Manush Shah bt Yashansh Malik 11-4, 11-9, 11-4).
Women: West Bengal beat Maharashtra 3-1 (Ayhika Mukherjee bt Swastika Ghosh 11-3, 11-5, 11-3; Sutirtha Mukherjee lost to Reethrishya Tennison 9-11, 11-13, 9-11; Mouma Das bt Diya Chitale 6-11, 16-14, 10-12, 14-12, 11-6; Sutirtha Mukherjee bt Swastika Ghosh 11-4, 11-13, 11-8, 10-12, 11-6).