Singles players Manika Batra and Sreeja Akula warmed up for an uphill battle ahead with easy wins as the Indian women’s table tennis team begins its four-year title defense.
India’s table tennis team defeated South Africa and Fiji by equal margin of 3-0 in Group 2 preliminary round matches at the National Exhibition Center (NEC), Solihul, here on Friday.
The team, led by star paddler Manika, could not sweat it out against both as they inflicted extensive defeats to both South Africa and Fiji.
Manika won her singles match in straight games against Musfikuh Kalam and Reeth Tennyson, while Sreeja Akula beat Danisha Patel 3–0 to seal a comprehensive victory for the favourites.
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Reeth and Sreeja defeated South African pair of Laita Edwards and Danish Jaywant Patel 11-7, 11-7, 11-5. Reeth and Sreeja took an early lead in a best-of-five match in three matches each and didn’t give their lower-order opponents many chances.
Manika Batra was at the table for the first singles game and beat her rival Musfikuh Kalam well, allowing them to win only 10 points combined in three games, leading to an 11-5, 11-3, doubles win in the doubles. Won 11-2. quick time.
Sreeja made it to the table for the second singles and defeated Danish Patel 3–0 (11–5, 11–3, 11–6) to lead India to a best of five match in Group 2, which included Guyana and Fiji South Africa. Apart from this, there are other opponents of India.
Later in the afternoon, Manika beat Fiji’s Lee Caroline 11-2, 11-4, 11-2, while Sreeja defeated Grace Rosie Yi 11-7, 11-1, 11-2 in a one-sided contest. and registered an impressive victory. For India, Diya Parag Chitale beat Toys Titana and Grace Rosie Yee 11-8, 11-3, 11-5 in the opening doubles match to register a 3-0 best-of-five win.
Though his opponents were not that strong, Manika Batra said that they got stronger as they wanted to find their momentum quickly.
“It wasn’t too tough, we went to do our best to prepare for the next round,” Manika said after the match against South Africa.
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The top seeded Indian female player is the star attraction 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 that she did not feel any pressure from the heightened hopes after her valor on the Gold Coast.
“I always go into a tournament thinking that it is a new tournament and whatever happened in the last one has no bearing on it. The pressure will always be there, after all I am a player. But I try to look ahead and take care of myself,” Manika said after the match.
She said that they have a young team as others are playing in their first Commonwealth Games and she tries to talk to them and share their experiences so that they can learn from them.
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