Singles players Manika Batra and Srija Akula set up for tough battles ahead with comfortable wins as the Indian women’s table tennis team began their four-year title defense.
The Indian table tennis team defeated South Africa and Fiji by identical 3-0 margins in their Group 2 preliminary round matches at Hall 3 of the National Exhibition Center (NEC), Solihull here on Friday.
The team, led by star paddler Manika, did not break a sweat against either as they comprehensively defeated both South Africa and Fiji.
Manika won her singles match against Musafiq Kalam and Raith Tennyson in straight games while Srija Akula overcame Danish Patel 3-0 for favourite.
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Raith and Sreeja paced the ball for India as they defeated the South African pair of Leeta Edwards and Danisha Jeevant Patel 11-7, 11-7, 11-5. Reith and Sreeja took early leads in each of the three games in the best-of-five match and did not allow their lower-ranked opponents many chances.
Manika Batra was at the table for the first singles game and thoroughly outplayed her opponent Musafiq Kalam, managing to score just 10 points in the three games combined, 11-5, 11-3, 11 in the doubles. Won by -2. Instant time
Srija stepped up to the table for the second singles and defeated Dinisha Patel 3-0 (11-5, 11-3, 11-6) to seal victory for India in the Group 2 best-of-five match. Guyana and Fiji are India’s other opponents apart from South Africa.
Later in the afternoon, Manika beat Fiji’s Lee Caroline 11-2, 11-4, 11-2, while Srija beat Grace Rousey 11-7, 11-1, 11-2 in a one-sided encounter. And won the victory. For India when she partnered Diaprag Chatale in the opening doubles match to beat Twice Tetana and Grace Rousey 11-8, 11-3, 11-5 to make it 3-0 in the best-of-five match. Won a comprehensive victory.
Although her opponents weren’t as strong, Manika Batra said she went strong because she wanted to get her rhythm early.
“It wasn’t too difficult, we went in to do our best to prepare for the next round,” Maneka said after the match against South Africa.
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The top-seeded Indian women player is the focus of the table tennis competition after winning gold medals in the team and women’s singles events at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast. However, Manika said he did not feel pressured by the growing expectations after the Gold Coast heroics.
“I always go into a tournament thinking that this is a new tournament and what happened in the previous one has no bearing on it. The pressure will always be there, at the end of the day I am a player. But I try to look ahead and stay focused,” Manika said after the match.
She said she has a young team as others are playing in their first Commonwealth Games and she tries to talk to them and share their experiences so they can learn from them.
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