Ahmedabad: An unexpected phone call hastened Manika Batra’s arrival to Dharwad on the eve of the National Ranking Table Tennis Championships for the South Zone. The telephonic message from her coach Sandeep Gupta was loud and clear: She was required to play the qualifiers on the opening day!
It must have come as a rude shock to Batra, but the circumstances decided her fate just a day before the open draw was conducted. Ranked joint seventh along with Archana Kamath and Poulami Ghatak, with just two slots at 7 and 8 up for grabs, Batra was tossed out. In other words, Batra was playing the qualifiers, without the usual luxury of a direct entry into the main draw.
It did come as a blow to the former national champion. She and her mother packed quickly and had their journey tickets to Dharwad re-booked even as they left to the airport to catch the first available flight to Goa so that they could drive down to the venue in time.
Drawn in Group 1, she began shakily with a cluttered mind, but surely marched ahead posting two wins to enter the main draw. From there, she gained in strength, grew in confidence and never looked back. “I was a bit disappointed but in hindsight, I have had very good preparations for the Asian Cup beginning next week,” said a satisfied Batra after winning the women singles crown on Sunday.
In fact, Batra raised the bar in the semi-final against reigning national champion Madhurika Patkar and former Institutional titleholder Suthirta Mukherjee in the final. Playing with odd rubbers, it is considered difficult to have a complete control over the ball. But Batra dismissed this belief to outsmart Patkar and Mukherjee.
Batra's blocks off both fore and backhands came off nicely and she gave fewer negatives against the two opponents. She exploited the weaknesses of Patkar and Mukherjee, attacked both flanks, which included some astonishing down-the-line shots and excellent presence of mind.
“I must say I have improved. My blocks are coming good and the percentage of winners on forehand has become regular. More importantly, I’m hitting well. I am upbeat about the Asian Cup at Ahmedabad and ready to give my best shot. My aim is to reach the quarter-finals. I will think about the first match and then take the call,” said the Petroleum paddler.
Updated Date: Sep 14, 2017 13:18 PM