Manika Batra surprised 20th seed Margaryta Pesotska of Ukraine to enter the women’s singles third round while leading paddler Gnanasekaran Sathiyan was stunned by Lam Siu Hang of Hong Kong in the men’s singles second round of the table tennis event at Tokyo on July 25.
On July 24, the Indian table tennis contingent was in the news for all the wrong reasons, despite Sutirtha Mukherjee winning her women’s singles first round. While Manika and A. Sharath Kamal staged meek surrender in the mixed doubles round of 16, Manika’s refusal to let national coach Soumyadeep Roy advise her during the coaching after her personal coach Sanmay Paranjape was denied competition area access forced the table tennis Team Leader M.P. Singh lash out publicly against her.
However, come Sunday and Manika didn’t let the controversies affect her against a solid opponent. Not only is Pesotska ranked higher than Manika but is renowned to be one of the few Euopean paddlers to have mastered the art of playing against players with long pimples, like Manika.
After losing the first two games, Manika appeared to have changed her tactics and started playing deep into the table to stifle her strong opponent and used her forehand winners effectively. Despite equalling the match at two sets apiece, Manika couldn’t withstand her consistent opponent’s onslaught in the fifth.
The lanky paddler then started flipping her racque during points effectively to rattle Pesotska to eventually complete a 4-11, 4-11, 11-7, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7 win. She will now face 10th seed Sofia Polcanova of Australia for a place in the pre-quarterfinals.
While Manika was on song, Sathiyan, the most consistent Indian singles paddler over the last few years, succumbed against a lowly ranked Hang. Hang, the World No. 95, had lost both his previous matches against Sathiyan.
However, when it mattered the most, Hang staged a stupendous comeback after being on the verge of elimination. While Hang had every reason to celebrate, Sathiyan — whose personal coach S. Raman wasn’t even allowed to travel to Toyko — would be disheartened to have ended his maiden Olympic debut with a 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-5, 9-11, 10-12, 6-11 loss in the round of 64.