Kuala Lumpur: Indian paddlers made history twice in less than 24 hours with both women’s and men’s teams emerging triumphant in the second division of their respective sections at the 2016 World Table Tennis Championships here on Saturday.
The Indian women’s team beat Luxemburg 3-1 in the second division final before their male counterparts overcame a stiff competition from Brazil 3-2.
Their top-podium finish followed the exceptional achievements on Friday night of qualifying for the next edition’s champions division.
Incidentally, this was the first time ever that the women’s team have kept a clean slate at the World Championships. They won all their eight matches in the first and the second stages.
The men however, started with with a loss to Nigeria in their opening group match, but won all their games tthereafter to achieve top honours.
Approaching the final confidently, the experienced Mouma Das gave the Indian women a winning start when she defeated Danielle Konsbruck 3-0, though Danielle managed to stretch Mouma somewhat in the third game. After a couple of deuces, the Indian shut her opponent out.
Manika then won 3-1 against Tessy Gonderinger and then beat Danielle 3-0 to wrap up a memorable win for India.
Manika had performed poorly on Friday, but she managed to find her form at the right time. She began with a bang against Tessy and opened up a 2-0 lead. Tessy managed to win the third game to reduce the deficit.
However, Manika was all concentration in the fourth game to complete a 3-1 win and provide India with a 2-0 lead. Despite the cushion, K. Shamini was unable to take advantage and lost her singles contest to Sarah De Nutte in straight games. But Manika beat Danielle 3-0 in the reverse singles to ensure an Indian victory.
“It was a great experience for all of us. We will remember this feat at KL for a long time to come,” said Manika Batra after completing the win.
“I am happy I started well and our combined efforts and consistency throughout have paid us dividends,” Mouma said.
With the Indian men achieving two hard-fought wins on their way to the final, the team management decided to rest veteran Achanta Sharath Kamal for the title decider against Brazil.
But it seemed to be a wrong decision with India trailing 1-2 despite Harmeet Desai pulling one back after Soumyajit Ghosh lost the opening rubber.
Worse was to come when Anthony Amalraj, who was leading the third rubber 2-1 at one stage, went down to Thiago Monterio, putting India in a precarious position.
However, Ghosh made amends with a fantastic 3-0 win over Cazuo Matsumoto to keep Indian hopes alive.
Harmeet then won a tense decider 15-13.
Sharath, understandably, was happy about team’s performance at the championships.
“It is like a dream come true for me and the team because by 2018 if I am still in the team, we will be playing in the Championship Division for the first time,” he said.
He also recalled the win against Egypt last night which gave enough confidence today against Brazil.
“This is awesome for us as a team because I can remember when we started our campaign to play in the elite division in Guangzhou in 2008, it was Egypt that stopped us then and also in 2014.”
Men: India bt Egypt 3-1 (Soumyajit Ghosh lost to Omar Assar 5-11, 7-11, 4-11, A. Sharath Kamal bt Mohammed El-Beiali 11-7, 11-5, 11-9, Harmeet Desai bt El-Sayed Lashin 12-14, 11-6, 14-12, 11-5, ‘A. Sharath Kamal bt Omar Assar 11-3, 12-10, 11-5).
Women: India bt Brazil 3-2 (Soumyajit Ghosh lost to Hugo Calderano 13-15, 4-11, 7-11, Harmeet Desai bt Cazuo Matsumoto 3-11, 11-8, 11-8, 8-11,11-9, Anthony Amalraj lost to Thiago Monterio 11-8, 7-11, 11-5, 9-11, 9-11, Soumyajit Ghosh bt Cazuo Matsumoto 11-6, 14-12, 11-9, Harmeet Desai bt Hugo Calderano 4-11, 11-5, 15-13, 11-6).