28 Dec 2018

On Tuesday 30th July at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the debut for table tennis in the multi-sport event, the combination of Li Jiawei, Jing Jun Hong and Zhang Xueling created a first; well over a decade later on Sunday 8th April at the 2018 Commonwealth Games staged in the Gold Coast their successors in the guise Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan created another first. One they did not want.

Perhaps, more significantly, it was the Indian trio formed by Manika Batra, Madhurika Patka and Mouma Das who in the east coast Australian city caused the first.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

In Manchester, Li Jiawei, Jing Jun Hong and Zhang Xueling recorded a three matches to nil win against the Australian trio comprising Miao Miao, Jian Fang Lay and Tammy Gough to win the first ever gold medal decided in the table tennis events at a Commonwealth Games. In Gold Coast, Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan became the first ever Singaporean outfit not to win the Women’s Team title at a Commonwealth Games!

After the success in the English city famous for its football teams and rain, Singapore had emerged successful four years later in Melbourne, in 2010 in Delhi and in 2014 in Glasgow; the best for India had been runners up spot on home city in Delhi. Notably in Glasgow, India had not gained a place on the podium.

The evidence was very much that Singapore would retain the title; the principal players in their line-up were Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan, collectively, they had won no less than 33 ITTF World Tour titles. In comparison the Indian squad had won just one; that being Manika Batra who in 2013 had won the Under 21 Women’s Singles event in Brazil. In Gold Coast she was the star, a revelation.

Both Singapore and India had progressed the final in style, Singapore had recorded a three-nil win against Australia; by the same margin India had beaten England.

In the final, India made the dream start, contrary to all expectations, Manika Batra beat the Feng Tianwei, the player who at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games had won the Women’s Singles title and had gained an air of invincibility. Manika Batra emerged the heroine of the hour but make no mistake it was a team effort that brought success.

Following the defeat experienced by Feng Tianwei; Yu Mengyu levelled matters by overcoming Madhurika Patkar, before Mouma Das and Madhurika Patkar joined forces for the doubles. They beat Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan; the win was crucial, it put the contest between Manika Batra and Yu Mengyu into a totally different light. Manika Batra was playing to win the overall contest, if the doubles had been lost it would have been to save the day; the momentum was with India, Manika Batra duly maintained that momentum.

An outstanding result but did we not think that the next time Manika Batra faced the leading players from Singapore, the record would be put straight and the team win was just a one off fluke?

We soon received the answer; one after another Manika Batra beat Zhou Yihan, Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu to win the Women’s Singles title!

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