Indian boys entered the final of the 22nd Asian Junior and Cadet Table Tennis Championships, beating South Korea 3-2 to assure themselves of at least a silver medal here on Tuesday. The result also helped the team to directly qualify for the World Junior Championships to be held in Thailand in November.
China blanked out Taipei 3-0 and will take on India in the final. Top three teams at the continental event here qualify for the Worlds but with no third-place playoff, the third team’s fate will be decided on the individual players’ performance from Tapei and Kore, the bronze medallists and other teams including Japan. In the individual events, which begin from Thursday, Japanese players stand a good chance to qualify as the third squad for the Worlds.
This would the second consecutive final for India’s junior boys, who are seeded No. 2 behind China, and it was achieved when Anukram Jain, playing the third singles in the semi-finals, did what Harmeet Desai had done in the World Championships to put India in the Championships Division and again in the Commonwealth Championships this July in Cuttack to help Indian men win gold.
Though Manush Shah, India’s No. 1 junior player and ranked No. 7 in the world, gave a winning start defeating Park Gyuhyeon 5-11, 11-6, 15-13, 11-1 in the tough opener, the second-best Raegan Albuquerque lost the second singles tamely to Korea’s Kim Woojin 6-11, 5-11, 10-12. It was then Jain who proved to be the gamechanger against Lee Gihun.
It was a very dicey first game for the Indian as after squandering two game points he won it 14-12. This gave the lanky Rajasthan player a distinct advantage in the second as he managed to pull it off in the second to go 2-0 up. However, the Korean came back nicely in the third to pull one back and the Indian, without wasting time, attacked in the next using both flanks to score a crucial 14-12, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3 triumph.
Yet, Manush Shah could not do much against Korea’s No. 1 player in the fourth game as Kim decimated the left-hander 11-6, 11-5, 12-10 to level the score and give themselves a fair chance. But Raegan had other ideas as he opened with authority against Park and hastened Korea’s exit, despite losing the second game with 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6 score.