Panchkula,–Anthony Amalraj’s stars, aided by the inexperience of Soumyadeep Sarkar, played a big role in the ninth seed’s passage into the Round of 32 in the UTT 82nd National Table Tennis Championships at the Tau Devi Lal Indoor Stadium in Sector 3 here today.
Tenth-seeded Jeet Chandra, expected to meet former National champion, Sanil Shetty, in the pre-quarters, went down meekly to former Sub-Junior National title-winner Preyesh Raj Suresh. The Tamil Nadu paddler, a junior now, won 11-9, 11-6, 8-11, 11-13, 11-6, 11-9. The left-hander who surprises with wonderful service variations shocked the Haryana lad. Jeet, who plays an attacking game, was not up to his billing. Nor could he match up to the left-hander whose excellent use of flanks and returns perpetually confused the well-known paddler.
Amalraj, who successfully battled Covid-19 after testing positive in October, rode on luck to beat his West Bengal rival, Soumyadeep Sarkar, 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 14-12. Essentially a forehand player, who believes in the attack, struggled most of his R64 match. Sarkar, on the other hand, had no inhibitions returned with full energy against the troubled Amalraj.
From start to the finish, the onus was on the former national champion to re-establish. But it was Sarkar who stroked his way, mounting pressure on the ninth-seed, who often failed to put the ball on the table. So much so, he had to fight to get rid of his hesitancy first, then level the score when down 1-2 to stay in the hunt. Luckily, he closed in on his rival in the fifth to go 3-1 up. But he lost the next game, bringing the match on even keel.
In the decider, Sarkar played brilliantly to establish an early lead and when Amalraj levelled 7-7, the latter sensed hope. But at 10-9, he missed his first match-point while Sarkar two soon after. In the end, Amalraj won on his third match-point to move into the next round.
In another R64 match of struggle, 13th seed Jubin Kumar found the going tough against Akaash Nath of MC&IT. The Haryana left-hander had no starting problems as he surged into a 2-0 lead before dropping a game to his opponent. Jubin brought a semblance of order to his game in the next but Akaash cashed in on the opportunities that came his way in the fifth to pull one back. Even in the sixth, it was touch and go and after deuce, the left-hander struck at the first opportunity to pick the crucial two points.
But for these aberrations, the other seeded players had it easy against their opponents, including No. 1 seed A. Sharath Kamal, G. Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar, to name a few. Few other matches kept everyone interested but the one between Anath Devarajan of TNTTA and Sourav Saha of Haryana proved a thriller, the latter coming good with 7-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-3, 6-11, 11-6.
From the cursory look of the draw, Amalraj could be playing Soumyjit Ghosh, Jubin taking on Manav and Arjun Ghosh meeting Sushmit Sriram in the pre-quarterfinals. The match-up between Arjun and Sushmit would be a must-watch battle tomorrow morning.
YS.Rana: Principal Correspondent.