Indian table tennis stars, Achanta Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Harmeet Desai made it through to the next round in their respective events of the Hungarian Open at the Budapest Olympic Hall on Tuesday.
World no. 34 Achanta Sharath Kamal, who had to play the second preliminary round, was pushed to six games by Italian Leonardo Mutti, but eventually won 7-11, 16-14, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9.
Leonardo Mutti, ranked 164, was in good form having beaten Honduras’ Jose You in the previous qualifying round and made the veteran Indian table tennis ace sweat in the early stages, winning two of the first games and only letting go of the second after stretching it to 16 points.
However, Achanta Sharath Kamal composed himself after that, bringing his experience into play and swiftly closed out the next three games to move into the third qualifying round, where he will face Austrian Stefan Fegerl.
Fellow Indian table tennis player, Harmeet Desai also had to grind out a seven-game win over Thailand’s Padasak Tanviriyavechakul in the second preliminary round.
The 90th-ranked Indian seemed out of sorts in the first four games, losing three of them by big margins while huffing and puffing his way to a win in the second. Like Achanta Sharath Kamal though, he started being more vigilant with his opponent’s serve from thereon and it helped him win the decisive games as he triumphed 8-11, 12-10, 5-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-7.
However, Indian table tennis’ youngsters were unable to pull off victories after stretching their opponents as Manav Thakker and Sanil Shetty lost in seven game thrillers while Sushmit Sriram lost in a six-game tie in their first preliminary round matches.
Manika Batra wins in straight games
Commonwealth Games gold medalist Manika Batra enjoyed the easiest tie among the Indian table tennis players on the day as she breezed past Margo Degraef of Belgium with a straight games 11-6, 11-5, 11-4, 11-9 victory in the first preliminary round of the women’s singles.
Manika Batra consistently won points on both and her opponent’s serves, taking as many as 24 of them off the latter, as she surprised the Belgian with her ability to meet the ball quickly. The Indian paddler made sure she remained well-rested for her tie with Jamila Laurenti as she wrapped up the match in under half-an-hour.
Sutirtha Mukherjee emulated her compatriot with a sweeping 11-6, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9 victory over Swede Linda Bergstrom to set up a second preliminary round match-up with Marie Migot.
As with the men, the young female brigade of Indian table tennis did not enjoy a great outing as Krittwika Roy fell in straight games to Satsuki Odo while Madhurika Patkar fared slightly better but fell to Solomiya Brateyko 11-6, 2-11, 7-11, 13-11, 9-11, 9-11.
Mixed day in the doubles
While Manav Thakker may have bowed out of the singles, the 21-year-old did taste victory later in the day as he paired up with Harmeet Desai to get the better of local pair Oliver Both and Csaba Andras 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4.
The differentiating factor between the teams was once again the ability to capitalize on opposition serves as the Indian table tennis pair outclassed the young Hungarians. Manav Thakker and Harmeet Desai will next face Jon Persson and Truis Moregard in the second preliminary round.
What next for Indian table tennis at the Hungarian Open
Achanta Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai will be in action in the third preliminary rounds in the men’s singles on Wednesday while Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee will hope to continue their challenge in the women’s singles.
Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakker will be the Indian men’s doubles representatives on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, who got a direct entry into the singles’ main draw owing to his ranking, will be seen in action for the first time on Wednesday, albeit in the doubles, as he teams up with Achanta Sharath Kamal.
The latter will have a busy day as he plays three matches on Wednesday, with the latest one being the mixed doubles tie along with Manika Batra.
Where you can watch the Hungarian Open
Fans can watch the live stream the Hungarian Open on the official ITTF website, ittf.com.