Akula Sreeja beat Haryana’s Sutirtha Mukherjee, an Indian international, 4-2 in the final of the UTT National Ranking Table Tennis Championships (North Zone) to lift her rophy in women singles final at the DPS Hall in Sonepat on Thursday.
In men’s singles, veteran Anthony Amalraj was in top form when he beat top-seeded Manav Thakkar 4-1.
Sreeja, representing the Reserve Bank of India, kept a cool head to go with an uncomplicated game plan, right from the quarter-final when she ousted the seeded Sagarika Mukherjee. She won a tough semi-final which must have done a world of good when she faced Suthirtha in the final.
Sreeja was down 0-2 but the win in the third extended game changed the complexion of her approach even as the Haryana paddler, a former national champion and No. 4 seed, seemed to have dropped her guard at the crucial junctures. Sreeja won the next game, again on extended points, before sealing her opponent’s fate with two more wins—the last two going her way with minimal fuss.
An elated Sreeja said: “It was unexpected. But the win against Anusha (Kutumbale) gave me the confidence. After winning the third and fourth games in the final, I knew I needed a bit of luck to clinch it.”
For Amalraj, it was a straightforward win in the title clash, particularly after a tough semi-final against Sudhanshu Grover earlier in the day.
Manav was unlike himself while Amalraj was quick in executing his shots and establishing a comfortable 3-0 lead. Manav was struggling to cope with the speedy Amalraj and yet managed to take a game off him. But it was too late.
Except for the two semi-finals, one each in men singles and women singles, the other semi-finals went down to the wire with Amalraj overcoming stiff resistance by Sudhanshu Grover and Akula Sreeja from Anusha Kutumbale.
Manav dropped just one game after leading 2-0 before stifling out the left-handed Sanil Shetty. On the other hand, it was a tough fight for the experienced Amalraj who got a real scare from his PSPB mate, Sudhanshu, who took the fifth and sixth games to level the score to take it to the decider. Amalraj dropped just two points in the decider.
Similarly, it was rather easy for Haryana’s Suthirtha who blanked out reigning national champion Archana Kamath in the other semi-final.
Men: Final: Anothny Amalraj (PSPB) bt Manav Thakkar (PSPB) 11-9, 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8; Semi-finals: Manav Thakkar bt Sanil Shetty (PSPB) 11-7, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, A. Amalraj bt Sudhanshu Grover (PSPB) 8-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-8, 11-13, 8-11, 11-2.
Women: Final: Akula Sreeja (RBI) bt Sutirtha Mukherjee (HRN) 6-11, 7-11, 14-12, 13-11, 11-9, 11-9; Semi-finals: Sutirtha Mulherjee bt Archana Kamath (PSPB) 12-10, 12-10, 11-8, 11-5, Akula Sreeja bt Anusha Kutumbale (MP) 11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-7, 3-11, 12-10