by Ian Marshall, Editor
In the final of the under 21 men’s singles event, Manav Vikash Thakkar, the no.2 seed, accounted for Argentina’s Martin Bentancor, the no.14 seed, in three straight games (11-3, 11-5, 11-6) to arrest the title.
Soon after Wang Xiaoting, the no.21 seed, caused somewhat of an upset. She clinched the under 21 women’s singles top prize; at the final hurdle, she overcame Japan’s Maki Shiomi, the top seed, in four games (11-7, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7).
It is the first title at an open international tournament for either player, in particular it is the first under 21 men’s singles title for India since the ITTF Challenge Series became an entity in its own right in January 2017, as opposed to being an integral part of the ITTF World Tour.
Manav Vikash Thakkar follows the example of colleagues Harmeet Desai, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Soumyajit Ghosh, all ITTF World Tour under 21 men’s singles winners. In 2012 Harmeet Desai won in Brazil, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran in Egypt; Soumyajit Ghosh succeeded in 2011 in Chile and in 2013, like Harmeet Desai, in Brazil.
Moreover, in Markham there further firsts for Manav Vikash Thakkar.
It was the first time at an ITTF Challenge Series or ITTF World Tour tournament that he had ever reached the quarter-finals of a men’s singles event. The no.25 seed, he beat Canada’s Chen Hongtao (8-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5), Mexico’s Marcos Madrid, the no.16 seed (11-6, 11-9, 11-8, 11-2) and Frenchman Alexandre Robinot, the no.24 seed (12-10, 11-7, 12-10, 4-11, 11-9) to book his place in the last eight where China’s Xiang Peng ended adventures (11-7, 11-4, 11-6, 1-11, 4-11, 11-7).
Notably, Alexandre Robinot was a player in form; in the second round he had beaten Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck, the no.3 seed (18-16, 11-3, 16-14, 13-11).
Also, although he had partnered Archana Girish Kamath in 2018 in the mixed team event at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games and in the mixed doubles at the ensuing World Junior Championships in Bendigo, it was their first appearance as a pair at an open international tournament.
Against the odds, together or apart in a mixed doubles event on the international stage, for the first time there was a semi-final appearance. Not listed amongst the top eight seeds, they beat Argentina’s Horacio Cifuentes and Camilla Arguelles, the no.4 seeds (11-9, 11-7, 11-6), Canada’s Eugene Wang and Zhang Mo, the no.8 seeds (13-11, 11-6, 11-6), before losing to China’s Zhao Zhaoyuan and Liu Xi (11-9, 11-7, 15-13).
New horizons for Manav Vikash Thakkar in Markham but the 19 year no stranger to being number one, no stranger to being first.
On the ITTF World Junior Circuit, he won the boys’ singles event in 2016 on home soil in Indore; he retained the title the following year in New Delhi, as well as succeeding in Slovenia. Just over one year ago in November 2018, he claimed the top prize in Portugal.
First place and he has the distinction of being the first, first. In February 2018, the initial under 18 boys’ world ranking under the present day scheme was issued. The player in top spot, Manav Vikash Thakkar, number one man!