Asian Games bronze medallists A Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra will take on the top-seeded pair of Manav Thakkar and Archana Girish Kamath in an exciting mixed doubles final of the 80th National Table Tennis Championship in Cuttack on Tuesday.
In the semifinals, second seeded pair of Sharath and Manika defeated third-seeded duo of Sourav Saha and Suthirtha Mukherjee of Haryana 3-1 to set up a clash with Manav and Archana.
In the first semifinal, Manav and Archana had notched up a 3-0 win over fourth-seeded Ravindra Kotiyan and Sagarika Mukherjee of the Railways to enter the finals at the Nehru Stadium.
In the last edition at Ranchi, none of the PSPB pairs could enter the final as RBI emerged the champions with North Bengal settling for the silver.
After a long and weary third day’s play with the team finals going late into the night, the jaded top players needed some rest before resuming the fourth day with just two rounds quarterfinals and semifinals on the fourth day.
Even otherwise, they didn’t have to worry about the singles qualifications scheduled for the day as they were all enjoying the immunity of being among the top 16 in national ranking.
The rest must have done a lot of good to these players, particularly the top four seeded duos who made it to the semifinals, keeping their seeding positions intact.
Manav and Archana combined so well, disposing of the Railways pair in straight games in a match that clocked less than 15 minutes.
However, Sharath and Manika, who led 2-0, dropped the third game, after levelling the game at 3-3 to lead 9-5.
Some rash shots forced the second-seeded pair on the back foot after the Haryana duo picked four points in a row to level 9-9. They easily picked the last two points to make a match of it.
In the fourth game, Sharath and Manika opened well and surged into a decent lead. But both Sourav and Suthirta fought back well to come too close for the PSPB pair’s comfort.
But then Sharath returned a scorching backhand when Suthirta served which brooked no challenge from Sourav. At 10-9, the PSPB duo kept their nerves and pulled it on without wasting any more time and energy.
The winning pair stands to gain Rs. 25,000 in prize money while the runners-up will receive half the amount.
After the qualification rounds in singles on Monday, the main draw begins on Tuesday.
Mixed Doubles: Semi-finals: Manav Thakkar & Archana Kamath (PSPB) bt Ravindra Kotiyan & Sagarika Mukherjee (RSPB) 11-3, 11-5, 11-7; A. Sharath Kamal & Manika Batra (PSPB) bt Sourav Saha & Sutirtha Mukherjee (Har) 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9.
Quarterfinals: Manav & Archana bt Abhishek Yadav & Suhana Narjinary (UP) 11-7, 11-7, 11-6; Ravindra & Sagarika bt Ronit Bhanja & Ayhika Mukherjee (WB) 8-11, 12-10, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7; Sourav & Sutirtha (Har) bt S.F.R. Snehit & Sreeja Akula (Tel) 11-5, 3-11, 11-6, 11-7; Sharath & Manika bt Asif Khan & Priyanka Pareek (Raj) 13-11, 11-7, 14-12.