WTT Star Contender: Manika, Sutirtha overcome higher-ranked opponents to make last 16
Panaji (Goa): In yet another day of upsets, Indian women paddlers Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee did the star-turn for India at the WTT Star Contender Goa, overcoming higher-ranked opponents to move into the last 16 stage.
The biggest upset of the day at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium was however by 20-year-old Korean youngster Cho Daeseong, who ousted Chinese world number one in men’s singles Fan Zhendong.
The day, as far as hosts India were concerned, belonged to the two women paddlers Manika and Sutirtha. Manika, India number one ousted Puerto Rican star and world number (wr) #14 Adriana Diaz 3-1 (11-9,11-8,5-11,11-8) in the evening session. Sutirtha, currently ranked 146, had earlier in the morning session, got the better of Jia Nan Yuan (wr #18) of France 3-0 (11-7,11-8,11-7).
While Manika will be up against China’s Qian Tianyi (wr #20) while Sutirtha will face yet another veteran Fu Yu (wr #19) of Portugal.
An exhausted Manika, whose defensive chops were too hot to handle for Adriana, said after the match, “I am really happy that I won today against Adriana Diaz. Let’s see what happens in the next round. I have played her before and will have some strategies against her. I’ll just give my best and I will just play my best game tomorrow for my country and for myself.”
Sutirtha, whose impeccable timing and power on the forehand have been her strength in the tournament, also shared her thoughts after the match saying, “I feel absolutely great since I managed to beat a top 20 player. Tomorrow I’ll be playing against Yu Fu and I am hoping that I will win against her as well. I had faced Yuan previously also and had conceded the match with a close margin. This time I didn’t think much about the rankings and I just went with a mindset to play freely and that led me to this victory.”
The biggest shock of day four came in the men’s singles when giant-killing Korean southpaw Cho, came back from two games down to beat Fan 3-2 (7-11,6-11,12-10,11-9,11-8) to move to the round of 16. He had on Wednesday got the better of Swede Mattias Falck (wr #36).
Thrilled with his spectacular win over the world number one, Cho confided, “It is the best win of my career and I am very happy. I didn’t think that I would win against Fan Zhendong. My heart was thumping fast when the final set reached 10-8. But I felt very good when I woke up today. As it is a world tournament, I will try my best to win the next game.”
The second and third seeds in the men’s singles, Japanese teenage livewire Tomokazu Harimoto (wr #4) and Swede Truls Moregard (wr #6) also made it to the last 16 with wins over Liang Yanning of China and Joao Geraldo of Portugal, respectively.
In another big upset in the women’s singles, Japanese second seed Hina Hayata (wr #6) went down 1-3 (11-9,8-11,3-11,4-11), in her round of 32 match to Chinese Taipei’s Cheng-I-Ching (wr #31). Top-seeded Chinese Wang Yidi (wr #4) though, was a comfortable 3-0 winner over yet another Japanese Miyu Nagasaki (wr #38).
A minor flutter was also caused by Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut (wr #35), who got the better of Jihee Jeon (wr #21) of Korea 3-1 (11-8,12-10,8-11,11-4). The third upset in the women’s singles was caused by yet another Korean Choi Hyojoo (wr #50), who defeated Doo Hoi Kem (wr #9) of Honk Kong, China, 3-1 and will next meet Miu Hirano of Japan
As many as six Chinese won on day four. Among them world number seven Liang Jingkun, number 12 Lin Gaoyuan and number 24 Lin Shidong in men’s singles and world number 20 Qian Tianyi, number 22 Liu Weishan and number 26 Kuai Man in women’s singles.
Four different nations made the women’s doubles semi-finals, two of them at the expense of Indian pairs. Manika Batra and Archana Kamath went down in their quarter-finals against Cheng-I Ching and Li Yu-Jhun of Chinese Taipei. They won the first 11-8 but the Chinese Taipei pair came back to win the next three (15-13,11-9,11-7) and with that the match. India’s hopes in the women’s doubles were then snuffed out completely when Swedes Linda Bergstrom and Christina Kallberg ousted Ayhika and Sutirtha Mukherjee by a similar 3-1 (11-7,13-11,6-11,11-7) margin. Japan and Korea are the other semi-finalists in the women’s doubles.
The men’s doubles will be a straight fight between Japan and Korea as two of their pairs clash with each other, in each of the two semi-finals. One of them, Lim Jonghoon and Jang Woojin of Korea got the better of Indians Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar 3-1 (12-10,11-8,7-11,11-6).
The Indian mixed doubles pair of Manika Batra and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran made a quarter-final exit, going down to Miwa Harimoto and Shunsuke Togami of Japan in three straight games (3-0: 12-10,11-6,11-6). They face the French pair of Emmanuel Lebesson and Jia Nan Yuan in the semi-finals. The other mixed doubles semi-final will be yet another Japan-Korea affair.
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