The teams from Delhi and Maharashtra A made a grand opening to their title campaign in the Sub-Junior Boys section as they were merciless against their hapless opponents, Chandigarh and Manipur, winning their first-round group matches 3-0 in the 11Sports 80th Cadet and Sub-Junior National Table Tennis Championships at the Basketball Hall of Sector 42 Sports Complex in Chandigarh on Tuesday.
Joining the title-contenders, registering first-round triumphs, were Gujarat, PSPB Academy, Punjab, Assam, North Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra B, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
The Delhi boys made a superb beginning with Aadarsh Chetri beating Chandigarh’s Divyang Sharma 11-1, 11-6, 11-1 as Payas Jain consolidated, after some struggle, when he won over Arnav Aggarwal 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 7-11, 11-5. It was surprising to see Payas struggling to find his feet against Arnav who came back strongly after training twice over. But Jain went into attack mode in the decider and won it much to the relief of the Delhi camp.
Then he and Aadarsh joined hands to win their doubles against Arnav and Jashan but the rusty Delhi boys needed to work a little harder as the win did not come any easy. The duo won 11-6, 11-4, 8-11, 11-7.
As for Maharashtra A, Jas Modi gave a flying start to beat his Manipur rival Samsung Meitei Heisnam 11-2, 11-5, 11-6. Soon after Aadil Anand registered 11-6, 11-2, 11-3 win over Rajkumar Singh Narman. Capitalizing on the 2-0 lead, Havish Asrani and S. Kulkarni beat the Manipuri combine of Sidharth and Narman 11-3, 11-7, 11-5.
Punjab fight back
But the match of the day happened to be Punjab winning against Jharkhand 3-2 in the toughest first round which saw as many as 22 out of a possible 25 games. It was Punjab which went into the lead when Suhaan Gulati beat Harshul Kweeraa 11-8, 5-11, 11-7, 11-5 but Uttarakhand’s Gautam Bhardwaj restored parity, beating Harmanjeet Singh 12-10, 4-11, 13-11, 11-9.
Then, surprisingly, Jharkhand surged ahead with their doubles pair giving them the 2-1 advantage when Gautam and Harshul defeated Kannan and Jaskirat Singh 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 8-11, 11-8 as the tie went down to the wire.
The damage was first repaired by Suhaan when he beat Gautam 14-16, 11-6, 12-10, 11-8 and it was carried forward by Harmanjeet who, after being down two games, made a good recovery to overcome Harshul 9-11, 3-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6.
In sub-junior girls, the top eight teams maintained their position, posting first-round wins over their rivals in group matches. In cadet Boys and Girls group matches, there were no surprises either with fancied teams going through the motions in the first round.
All teams are slated to play two group matches on the opening day before their last tie on Wednesday morning, with two teams qualifying for the second stage. After the completion of group encounters, there will be an open draw for the top 16 teams before the knockout matches begin in the afternoon.