Indore: Manav Thakkar, Varuni Jaiswal and Ishhita Gupta helped India wrest the initiative and win three singles gold medals, apart from the Junior Boys doubles gold, to lift the sagging morale of the hosts in ITTF 2016 India Junior and Cadet Open Table Tennis Championships.
India won four gold medals to Taipei's five, including four in team events, to be second in the medal chart. India also won one silver and five bronze medals.
Manav, who helped himself to a double gold, defeated Tai Ming-Wei 4-3 in the Junior Boys singles final playing a percentage game. The lead kept changing hands, but Manav had the upper hand in the last two games. His win in the crucial sixth game helped him gain confidence which he carried on in the decider as he demolished his Taipei opponent.
In Junior Girls, Varuni was trailing 0-3 and then 3-7 the decider. If a timeout at the wrong time by Taipei girl, induced by her coach, helped the Indian after she got her fourth point, Varuni was also aided by the red card to Taipei coach Yang Chia En—he was shown a yellow in the second game—for repeat offence of illegal advice. From there, egged on by the crowd, Varuni systematically went about accomplishing the golden feat for the first time with a cool head.
"Timeout was the turning point," admitted Varuni. "I knew I was very much in the game and I told myself that I should win the medal for the country," she added. Indeed, the little girl from Hyderabad did precisely that after being down 1-3 to outplay her opponent in the last three games to take the match.
In Cadet Girls, Ishita Gutpa defeated Huang Yu-Jie 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9 for her maiden international title and the win was worth more than the gold she won. The Delhi girl, who has a couple of zonal titles to her credit, surged ahead with a 2-1 lead only to let her opponent off the hook in the fourth game.
This allowed Taipei's Huang stage a fine recovery and take the issue to the decider. In the decider, Ishita capitalized on her rival's mistake and converted some good winners despite a solid showing from Huang.
Apart from the Cadet Girls singles title, India also won the Junior Boys doubles gold when Thakkar and Ananth Devarajan combined to outwit Taipei's Lai Chi-Chien andTai Ming-Wei 11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 12-10.
Thakkar was the lone Indian who played with authority to beat Taipei rival Lai Chi-Chien in straight games. The latter made a late surge in the fourth game but it was too late and too little in the day as Manav after three deuces pulled it off for a meeting with Tai Min-Wei, who beat Anirban Ghosh, in Junior Boys final.
Sreeja Akula, despite better seeding, struggled in the face of a stiff resistance from Varuna Jaiswal and ultimately gave in to the guile of a better prepared Varuni on the day. The two, hailing from Telangana and knowing each other too well, exploited weak links with Varuni winning crucial points for the 4-3 triumph.
In Cadet Boys, Manush Shah made it to the final beating Huang Hung-Chou 3-2 while Tai, who also reached the Junior Boys final, beat compatriot Huang Yan-Cheng 3-1. Ishita Gupta struggled to overcome Manushree Patil 3-2 in Cadet Girls’ semifinal. But Yuang Yu-Jie disposed of Chien 3-0 in the other match.