Pondicherry: Harmeet Desai gave himself a wedding present when he defeated Manush Shah 4-1 to win the men’s singles title in the UTT National Ranking Championships (South Zone) at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium here today.
Earlier, in a show of character, determination and anticipation Sreeja Akula scored a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Swastika Ghosh to win the crown after Sonepat and Thane in 2019.
Harmeet, who got married to Krittwika Sinha Roy last month, ran into good form here, made steady progress throughout the championships. On Thursday, he did it twice over, first in the semifinals and then in the final against his state-mate. In the end, it was rather easy for the India international who was deprived of a title in recent times.
However, it was not all hunky-dory for the RBI woman, who trailed 1-3. Swastika, the winner of the singles crown at Dehradun, was never short of employing her attacking forehand and clever long serves.
Yet, patience paid in the end for Sreeja, especially in the decider. Down 4-8, she picked four points on the trot to level. On her serve, she earned the two points going 10-8 up. But the AAI girl deuced to put the match in the balance. Serving short, Sreeja converted the weak return into a point and, anticipating another long service, the RBI woman positioned herself a little away from the table to smash it for the title.
In the morning, Manush Shah continued his hard-hitting spree, quelling the possible challenge that 13th seed Anirban Ghosh might have nursed. After taking a 2-0 lead, the left-handed ninth seed dropped a game before ascertaining his authority in the next. He lost a couple of game points, as did Anirban, before pulling it off on the third. Anirban couldn’t do much in the face of it and eventually lost the fifth as well, giving his opponent a clear passage into the final.
The unstoppable Harmeet Desai played a percentage game against first-time semifinalist Shubh Goel. The unseeded Delhi boy seemed lost against the astute Harmeet, who dropped his first game after going 3-0 up. But the Gujarat paddler completed the formality in the fifth game to romp home winners.
In the women’s singles semifinals, Swastika Ghosh stamped her authority to beat Diya Chitale, also from Maharashtra 4-2, despite Ayhika Mukerjee of RBI opening the match well and leading 3-1. Ayhika pulled one back, winning the fifth but could not sustain against the calculated attack of Swastika.
In the second semifinal, Sreeja Akula had to labour a lot to overcome a stiff challenge from Diya Chitale of Maharashtra. The Under-19 girl not only did well to level the score 3-3 but posed a lot of problems with her free-flow hitting in the decider, which Sreeja won on her second match point.
Payas Jain of Delhi yet again proved his calibre, winning the Youth Boys Under-19 title when he defeated Yashansh Malik, also from Delhi 4-0. The match failed to raise any din, the Worlds bronze medallist performing a clinical act in demolishing his opponent in the final. Payas earlier beat Vishwa Deenadayalan of Tamil Nadu, the winner at Dehradun, in the semifinal.
In the Youth Girls Under-19 final, Yashaswini Ghorphade hit the groove to wear the crown. The title triumph has come her way, after a long time as the Karnataka girl had been very inconsistent. However, today, she played well to outwit Maharashtra's Pritha Vartikar, who felled top-seed Suhana Saini in the semifinal.
Men’s Singles: Final: Harmeet Desai (Guj) bt Manush Shah (Guj) 11-9, 12-10, 6-11, 13-11, 11-7.
Semifinals: Manush Shah bt Anirban Ghosh (RSPB) 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 14-12, 11-7; Harmeet Desai bt Shubh Goel (Del) 11-5, 11-6, 11-3,8-11, 11-7.
Women’s Singles: Final: Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Swastika Ghosh (AAI) 5-11, 11-7, 7-11, 17-19, 11-4, 11-6, 12-10.
Semifinals: Swastika Ghosh bt Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI) 9-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-5, 3-11, 11-2; Sreeja Akula bt Diya Chitale (Mah) 11-6, 9-11, 9-11, 13-11, 11-9, 4-11, 13-11.
Youth Boys U-19 Singles: Final: Payas Jain (Del) bt Yashansh Malik (Del) 12-10, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5.
Semifinals: Payas Jain bt Vishwa Deenadayalan (TTTA) 11-8, 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7; Yashansh Malik bt Divyansh Srivastava (UP) 11-4, 11-6, 12-10, 11-3.
Youth Girls U-19 Singles: Final: Yashaswini Ghorphade (Kar) bt Pritha Vartikar (Mah) 10-12, 11-9, 13-11, 12-10, 11-4.
Semifinals: Pritha Vartikar bt Risha Mirchandani (Mah) 11-4, 18-16, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7; Yashaswini Ghorpade bt Munmun Kundu 11-4, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7.