Former national champion and third seed Sanil Shetty survived a scare even as men’s singles stars including top seed G Sathiyan and second seed A Sharath Kamal registered easy victories to advance to the third round of the table tennis competition in the 36th National Games.
The individual competition at the PDDU Indoor Stadium took off with local mixed doubles pair of Manav Thakkar and Filzah Fatema Kadri upsetting top seeds Sanil Shetty and Reethrishya Tennison of Maharashtra to reach the quarter-finals.
In fact, five of the eight seeds in the mixed doubles draw could not make it to the quarter final stage.
Shetty could have suffered a similar fate in the men’s singles competition as he was pushed to the brink by Uttar Pradesh’s Divyansh Srivastava. The left-hander from Maharashtra clearly struggled for rhythm but kept his nerves at 9-9 to clinch two quick points in the decider to win 11-5, 7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9.
In other matches, Sathiyan packed off Wesley Do Roserio of Haryana 13-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-5 while Sharath converted his fifth match point to beat Maharashtra’s Ravindra Kotiyan 11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 17-15.
Local hopes Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar also began their campaigns with facile victories in the second round. All the seeds enjoyed a bye in the opening round.
Thakkar wasted four match points in the fourth set but regrouped to beat Uttar Pradesh’s Sarth Mishra 11-5, 11-6, 11-6, 14-16, 11-6 while Desai hammered Telangana’s Mohammed Ali 11-4, 11-5, 11-6, 11-8.
But the performance of the day definitely came from Thakkar and Kadri, who teamed up for the first time at any level.
Though both players learnt the basics of the game at the Sufaiz Academy, they had never got a chance to play together in the past and even the decision to pair them together was taken at the preparatory camp held ahead of the Games.
The unseeded pair began their campaign with an easy win over Uttar Pradesh’s Sridhar Joshi and Mahika Dixit but their real test was going to be against the husband-wife combination of Shetty and Reeth.
Rising to the occasion, Kadri played a solid second foil to Thakkar as she not only did her job of keeping the ball in play effectively but also found opportunities to score winners as the pair registered a 11-7, 11-8, 11-7 victory.
“It’s a great feeling to beat a team which is in the top 6 in the national ranking. We are hoping to play with the same energy tomorrow and win a medal,” said Kadri after the match.
Thakkar was all praise for his partner. “She is very aggressive, she is an attacker. We have practiced a lot during training so we understand each other’s moves very well,” he said.