Commonwealth Games gold medallist Manika Batra showed nerves of steel on her way to upsetting the world No 26 Chen Szu-Yu at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open held at the Olympic Hall in Budapest on Thursday.
India No. 1 Sathiyan Gnanasekaran too made a winning start in his singles campaign to reach the pre-quarter-finals
The 24-year-old Batra undoubtedly stole the show with her resilient display. Being three games down could not deter her nor could the fact that she was facing a match point in the fourth. The Indian qualifier, who is placed at 67th in the current ITTF world rankings, dug deep and held her nerves to win the next four games in spectacular fashion, leaving her much-fancied 11th seeded Chinese Taipei opponent shell-shocked.
The seventh game, especially, tested the grit and stamina of both but the Delhi paddler’s composure under pressure helped her complete the 4-3 (9-11, 4-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7, 14-12) comeback that will likely be one of the most dramatic matches of the year.
Batra has another tough challenge in front of her as she faces the world No 11 Hirano Miu in her quest for a quarter-final berth.
In men’s singles, world No 30 Sathiyan was brilliant in his 4-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-9, 11-2) win against world No 61 Noshad Alamiyan of Iran. In his Round of 16 match, the Indian has a formidable opponent in the form of world No 5 Harimoto Tomokazu of Japan.
Sathiyan will also be in contention for a semi-final berth in men’s doubles in partnership with Achanta Sharath Kamal. The pair faces Hungary’s world No 132 Adam Szudi and world No 142 Nandor Ecseki in the quarter-finals.
Batra and Sharath Kamal, meanwhile, have got a walkover into the mixed doubles semi-finals and they will now take on the German combine of Patrick Franziska and Petrissa Solja.
With their sights set on Tokyo Olympics qualification, India’s top paddlers have participated in this ITTF World Tour event in search of valuable ranking points and high-level match play.