85th UTT Cadet and Sub-Junior National TT C'ships: Tamil Nadu girls turn the tables on Maharashtra to grab U-15 title

table tennis symbollic pixIndore: Tamil Nadu subdued title-favourites Maharashtra 3-2 to wear the Under-15 Girls crown in the 85th UTT Cadet and Sub-Junior National Table Tennis Championships at the Abhay Prashal Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday.

Tamil Nadu, which played 23 out of 25 games to emerge victorious, should credit the win to Ananya Muralidharan and coach Aishwarya. If the former was the X-factor in their scheme of things, the latter’s chirpy encouragements instilled confidence into the players, who looked forlorn when down and almost out at times. The TN girls elevated their stature to the gold from the bronze they won at the home edition last season.

After a fine turnaround against West Bengal in the semifinal, Tamil Nadu followed the same script in the final, which paid rich dividends. To play Ananya first was a clever move. She responded well and beat Maharashtra's No. 1 player, Riana Bhoota, 3-2. Hansini toiled but regrouped quickly to beat Divyanshi, putting Tamil Nadu 2-0.

But Ananya and Hansini lost the doubles to Kavya and Divyanshi, and Maharashtra cashed in on that opportunity and levelled the score through Riana. The left-hander beat Hansini 3-2. With the final in balance, Ananya was in no mood to cede and countered Divyanshi and her long-pimpled rubber, cleverly adapting to the pace forcing the Maharashtra girl into mistakes, and settling for the silver.

Delhi and West Bengal, who finished on the podium one-two in the last edition, shared the bronze medals.

Delhi, however, would rue their inability to go beyond the semifinals and translate their efforts into something better. If only their team management swapped the places of X (Prisha Goel) with Y (Avisha Karmakar) and vice-versa, Delhi could have made a match of their semifinals against Maharashtra.

But it was not to be. Avisha, restoring parity after Prisha lost her singles to left-handed Riana, continued with the doubles and her reverse singles and did not get an occasion to leave the table. Most importantly, Delhi wasted two others and preferred Prisha and Avisha for the crucial match. Perhaps the team management reposed too much faith in the two or did not have any against the other two.

Whatever the case, Avisha did not have the energy in the reverse singles. But a fresh Riana Bhoota, who defeated Prisha in the first rubber, returned to the table and beat Avisha in straight games.

Also, the two teams planning was contrasting. Divyanshi, who lost her singles to Avisha, joined hands with left-hander Kavya Bhatt and put Maharashtra 2-1 up. Prisha and Avisha fought back to level the score 0-2 down in the doubles. But far too many mistakes and excellent Kavya counters to swell up the lead in the decider snatched away Delhi’s chances. Nevertheless, Delhi would have taken a leaf out of the Maharashtra book on the significance of cleverly rotating the bench strength.

Tamil Nadu, too, relied too much on two players—Hansini and Ananya. Yet, the two made a 3-1 win possible from an impossible position. After Hansini became easy prey to Aarushi Nandi, their fourth player, in the first rubber. The change of plan for Bengal worked well here.

But Ananya played a stellar role when she trailed 0-2 in the second rubber to Syndrela Das. After claiming the closest third game, she followed it up with another in the fourth on her second game point. From there, she never looked back. After claiming the closest third game, she followed it up with another in the fourth on her second game point. From there, she never looked back.

Though the Bengal girl won the next game easily, Syndrela played superbly and led 5-3 at the change of ends. Syndrela was sitting pretty at 7-4, but Hanisini opened her game so well after taking her next point and went on a demolition job, taking five on the trot before conceding one to her rival. But it could not stop Hansini or Tamil Nadu from entering the final, besides exposing Bengal’s over-reliance on Syndrela. The 14-year-old is entitled to her rare failures!

Team Girls: Finals: Tamil Nadu bt Maharashtra 3-2 (Ananya Muralidharan bt Riana Bhoota 8-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-3, M. Hansini bt Divyanshi Bhowmick 5-11, 11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5, Hanisni/Ananya lost to Kavya Bhatt/Divyanshi 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, Hansini lost to Riana 11-9, 8-11, 10-12, 11-7, 12-14, Ananya bt Divyanshi 11-7, 11-6, 11-5).

Semifinals: Maharashtra bt Delhi 3-1 (Riana bt Prisha Goel 11-7, 11-4, 11-4, Divyanshi lost to Avisha Karmakar 9-11, 7-11, 11-7, 2-11, Divyanshi/Kavya Bhatt bt Prisha/Avisha 6-11, 5-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-9, Riana bt Avisha 11-8, 11-4, 11-6); Tamil Nadu bt West Bengal 3-1 (Hansini lost to Aarushi Nandi 6-11, 9-11, 11-7, 8-11, Ananya bt Syndrela Das 9-11, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-3, Hansini/Ananaya bt Syndrela/Ankolika Chakraborty 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5, 11-5, Hansini bt Syndrela 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 3-11, 11-8).