Manika comes from behind to win her 2nd nationals title

Today News Online Service

Panchkula, February 18

A “calm and composed” Manika Batra recovered from a two game  deficit and survived some anxious moments before she beat Reeth Rishya 4-2 to win her second women’s national title at the 82nd Senior National Table Tennis Championships here on Thursday.

Egged on by her support staff from the stands at a near-empty hall at Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Manika scripted a remarkable comeback after losing the first two games 8-11 10-12 and trailing 3-9 in the fourth. Manika won eight points on the trot to make it 2-2 and then switched gears to claim the fifth and sixth games as a dumbstruck Reeth was forced into submission.    

“She was playing well but I kept my calm and waited for my opportunities to make a comeback,” an elated Manika said after the match.    

“I am really happy to win this one as it comes after a long break,” said  the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee.                    

Manika, who won her first nationals title way back in 2015 at the Hyderabad, also acknowledged “the level of competition”, saying that every participant had come “well prepared” for the tournament. 

This was the first major tournament for the Indian women’s paddlers after a nearly year-long break due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Reeth looked good in the first two sets as she pushed Manika on the back-foot with her service and some attacking shots, particularly off the backhand. However, India’s top women’s paddler pulled her way back to win the third game 11-1 to remain in the contest.

Though Manika was again in trouble in the fourth game, Reeth gave away some easy points to her opponent and she was more than happy to grab the opportunity with both hands.  

“I was leading 9-3 but as she (Manika) won a few points, I suddenly felt the heat. I was blanked and probably it was at that point I lost the match,” said Reeth.

She though congratulated Manika for keeping her composure and said she needed to learn how to stay calm in crunch situations.

“I am a bit disappointed but I have made a lot of progress and there is only one way which I can go from here on,” said a determined PSPB paddler.   

Earlier, Manika beat Sreeja Akula 11-4 10-12 16-14 11-8 11-5 in the semifinals, while Reeth prevailed 11-8 4-11 11-6 11-6 11-3 against Takeme Sarkar.

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