Already assured a medal, Bhavinaben Patel continued to script history as she became the first Indian to enter the final of a table tennis event at the Paralympics with a hard-fought 3-2 win over China’s Miao Zhang in a class 4 semifinal in Tokyo on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Patel beat her world No 3 Chinese opponent 7-11 11-7 11-4 9-11 11-8 in the semifinal showdown that lasted 34 minutes. Bhavina Patel had never beaten Miao Zhang in 11 previous meetings, but pulled off an upset when it mattered. It was her fourth straight win against a higher-ranked player.
Meet Bhavina Patel, first ever Indian table tennis player to secure a Paralympics medal
Bhavina Patel (ranked 12) so far at Tokyo 2020:
Defeated world No 9 Megan Shackleton in a must-win Group A match.
Defeated world No 8 Joyce de Oliveira in R16.
Defeated world No 2 & Rio 2016 gold medallist in QF.
Defeated world No 3 & Rio 2016 silver medallist in SF.
Patel will take on world number one Chinese paddler Ying Zhou in the summit clash on Sunday. It is a rematch of the Group A opener that the Indian lost in straight games, but she has the momentum on her side now.
Competing in her first Paralympics, Patel lost the opening game in a tight contest. But, she made a strong recovery, claiming the next two games. In the fourth game, Zhang showed her class and resilience, not giving Patel the bragging rights just yet as the match headed into the decider.
In the deciding fifth game, Patel took a handy lead at 9-5 but the Rio 2016 silver medallist fought back to make it 8-9. But the Indian quickly took a time out that she had saved till that point, gathered herself and came back to win the next two points for a major upset.
In the quarterfinal on Friday, Patel had defeated 2016 Rio Paralympics gold winner and world number two Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia to clinch a medal and script history.
SPORT CLASS 4, Table tennis: Paddlers in classes 1-5 compete in a wheelchair. Class 4 players have some sitting balance and fully functional arms and hands. They can move to the front to meet their opponent’s serve.