A good start to the day and then ever better – that was undoubtedly the situation for India’s Manika Batra at the World Tour Hungarian Open in Budapest.
It was a day that tested the nerves, a day that underlined her strong mental resolve.
Partnering Sharath Kamal Achanta, and required to qualify for the main draw, the pair recorded a nail-biting five games mixed doubles win against the host nation’s Adam Szudi-Szandra Pergel. The 11-8, 9-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7 over the fifth seeds was a confidence booster as the Hungarian pair were beaten finalists by world champions Xu Xin-Liu Shiwen the previous year.
“The first game we managed to win because they were struggling with our style of play. In the second I feel we played on a higher level but we lost. Adam played very cleverly changing the pace and the direction on his shots; it took a bit of time for us to find the right response to it. From the fourth game onwards Manika started to play a bit more aggressively so I think that gave us the edge for the final game. We are happy to win this one and hoping to reach at least a round further,” said Sharath.
Later in the day Manika performed an even greater recovery and recorded an even bigger upset. She overcame Chinese Taipei’s 11th seed Chen Szu-Yu, in a contest where in the fourth game she stood on the very precipice of defeat before winning 9-11, 4-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7, 14-12.
Manika announced herself on the international stage at the 2011 World Tour Chile Open, she was the runner up in the under 21 women’s singles event. Since the achievement she has progressed to establish herself as one of India’s finest players.
Tall, a wide wingspan, Manika has always proved a tough opponent for anyone playing diagonally as she was able to cover the angles. Ever since collecting four medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, including an historic women’s singles gold medal – the first Indian to achieve the feat – a greater degree of confidence and resilience has been added to her technical skills.
At the Budapest Olympic Hall, for the first three games against Szu-Yu there was little evidence of that confidence but what followed was all you will ever need to see of her resilient nature.
The top-ranked Indian changed her stance ever so slightly behind the table, the change in her approach was oh-so-much-more. An attack based mindset was developing in Hungary, her Chinese Taipei opponent had no idea what was coming.
Manika could be forgiven for not believing she had a hope when she narrowly won the fourth game 12-10. Even at 1-3, it looked to be ominous for the Indian athlete; the fifth game was where her mood changed and so did that of the crowd.
Winning four games in a row, Manika rewrote the match highlights reel, a comeback that brought the fans on their feet.
Winner of the 2018 ITTF ‘Breakthrough Star’ award, Manika has sometimes left her fans wanting more. In Budapest yesterday, was not that situation – quite the reverse.
Meanwhile, the opening day of the competition at the Hungarian Open was no less than ten seeded players being shown the exit by qualifiers in the men’s singles event, The biggest name to fall was Germany’s fourth seeded Patrick Franziska, who was beaten 11-9, 12-14, 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 11-6 by Japan’s Takuya Jin.
Japan’s Yukiya Uda defeated 12th seed Kanak Jha of the United States while another Japanese Shunsuke Togami overcame 15th seeded Austrian Daniel Habesohn.
However fifth seeded Japanese star Koki Niwa lost to Germany’s Benedikt Duda while teammate and sixth seed Jun Mizutani was forced to withdraw through a neck injury in his match against Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek
German qualifier Qiu Dang overcame eight seeded Frenchman Simon Gauzy while Austrian Robert Gardos accounted for Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, the seventh seed.
Not to be outdone Poland’s Jakub Dyjas beat 13th seeded Dane Jonathan Groth while Panagiotis Gionis of Greece defeated the host nation’s 16th seed Bence Majoros.
Meanwhile, Frenchman Alexandre Cassin secured the biggest scalp of his career when he ended the hopes of 10th seed Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus.
by Kabir Nagpal for International Table Tennis Federation