Sixth-seed Harmeet Desai, buoyed by his Arjuna Award recommendation, disposed off PSPB mate Subhajit Saha 4-0 to storm into the semi-finals, sounding a warning to the rest of the field, in the UTT National Ranking (South Zone) Table Tennis Championships at the Jimmy George Indoor Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday. Also Read - Meet Arya Rajendran: 21-year-old Woman Who is Set to Become Youngest Mayor From Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram
The paddler from Gujarat, who had played a crucial role in India’s entry into the Champions Division of the World event last year and again in a gold-winning chase at the Commonwealth Championships at Cuttack, celebrated his triumph as the news trickled in about his nomination for the Arjuna Award. Also Read - Kerala CM Inaugurates Anti-farm Laws Protest in Thiruvananthapuram in Solidarity With Delhi Agitation
He will take on Soumyajit Ghosh, who is on a comeback trail, in the second semi-final on Sunday. Ghosh, who won a bronze at the recent Nigerian Open — he lost to Aruna Qadri — took as little time as possible against No. 2 seed Sudhanshu Grover, winning the quarterfinal 4-0. Also Read - Cyclone Burevi: Heavy Rainfall Likely in Kerala, Tamil Nadu; Flight Ops Suspended at Thiruvananthapuram & Tuticorin Airport
From the top-half, only No. 4 seed Sanil Shetty survived but not before struggling into the semis against Haryana’s Jeet Chandra, with a 4-2 decision. The left-handed Shetty will meet Tamil Nadu’s Sushmit Sriram, who accounted for Anirban Ghosh of Railways, in a tough match that went down to the wire.
Harmeet had all the shots in the book against veteran Saha who failed to put up the kind of resistance he is known for. The veteran was found wanting and it made things rather easy for a rampaging Harmeet.
But the best match of the day was played between Sushmit and Anirban. The gutsy Railways player was down 1-2 but did well to give a jolt to the Tamil Nadu player when he levelled 3-3 before the lanky Sushmit sealed his fate in the decider.
As for Shetty, his Haryana rival Jeet was unable to cope with the angled shots that the PSPB paddler thrived on and wilted after the fourth game when the score was level. Soumyajit, on the other hand, was well and truly on his way to announce his mainstream return.
Among women, only the seventh-seeded Ayhika Mukherjee remained in the fray and put it across Maharashtra’s Diya Chitale in a one-sided affair while the other overnight surviving seed No. 2 Madhurika Patkar was consumed by the young and talented Diya 4-1 earlier in the pre-quarterfinal.
After the way Diya had played against No. 2 seed Madhurika Patkar of PSPB, one expected the Maharashtra girl to do well, if not repeat the pre-quarterfinal performance, against No. 7 seeded Ayhika Mukherjee. But the seasoned campaigner posted a quick victory.
In the morning, however, Madhurika was awful and unable to counter an attacking Diya, who had her backhand working well, interspersed with good forehands. Diya won 5-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-4, 11-7 to enter the quarterfinals.
Yet, the best women quarterfinal happened to be the one between Selenadeepthi and Mousumi Paul. The PSPB paddler, despite being inconsistent to begin with, roared back to level 3-3 and took the issue to the decider when the Tamil Nadu paddler upped the ante to beat her and enter the semi-finals. Nevertheless, the surprise pack was left-hander Shruti Amrute, who beat Anusha Kutumbale 4-2 in a good match.