Manika Batra, Archana Kamath produce quality performances to beat Sweden 2-3 to enter the Round of 16 at the ITTF Olympic qualifiers.
A few hours after the Indian men’s table tennis team began their campaign at the ITTF World Team Qualification tournament at Gondobar in Portugal with a win over Luxembourg, the women’s side staged a fine comeback to beat Sweden on Wednesday night.
The Indian women’s table tennis team, that features Manika Batra, Ayhika Mukherjee and Archana Kamath, beat the Swedes 3-2 in a tie where they had to rally twice to get the better of their opponents to make it to the Round of 16.
Up against a higher-ranked opponent, Sweden is placed 19th in the world, the Indians didn’t begin on the right note as the doubles pair of Ayhika Mukherjee and Archana Kamath suffered a straight-sets loss to Matilda Ekholm and Christina Kallberg in the opening tie.
The Indian duo was handed a 7-11, 10-12, 15-17 loss as Sweden took a 1-0 lead in the Round-of-32 tie.
That, however, didn’t bother Manika Batra much, as the Indian ace brought her best to the fore to outclass Linda Bergstrom in four sets 11-4, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7 to draw parity.
But that joy didn’t last long as the Indians were once again on the back foot following Ayhika Mukherjee’s loss in the third match. Ranked 121 in the world, Ayhika Mukherjee was no match for Matilda Ekholm, who registered an 11-5, 11-13, 11-6, 11-7 win to hand Sweden the advantage.
The Indian women needed to win the remaining two matches to ensure their progress at the ITTF World Team Qualification meet, and Manika Batra and Archana Kamath delivered to pocket victories in a pressure situation to keep their flag flying.
Manika Batra, the gold medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, was the first to take the table and the top-ranked Indian didn’t disappoint as she beat Christina Kallberg 10-12, 11-7, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7 to push the tie into a decider.
And in the fifth, it was Archana Kamath who showed nerves of steel as she beat Linda Bergstrom in a five-set thriller 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11, saving two match points, to keep India’s hopes alive of making it to Tokyo 2020.
The Indian women’s table tennis team will face Romania in the Round of 16 on Friday.