by Kabir Nagpal
Partnering Sharath Kamal Achanta, required to qualify, the duo recorded a nail-biting full distance five games mixed doubles win against the host nation’s Adam Szudi and Szandra Pergel (11-8, 9-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7); somewhat of an upset, the Hungarians occupied the no.5 seeded position and last year excelled expectations to reach the final.
They lost to the pair who later in the year became World champions, China’s Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen; that performance underlines their quality.
“The first game we managed to win because they were struggling with our style of play. In the second I feel we played on a higher level but we lost. Adam played very cleverly changing the pace and the direction on his shots; it took a bit of time for us to find the right response to it. From the fourth game onwards Manika started to play a bit more aggressively so I think that gave us the edge for the final game. We are happy to win this one and hoping to reach at least a round further.” Sharath Kamal Achanta
A recovery from a two games to one deficit, later in the day Manika Batra performed an even greater recovery and recorded an even greater upset. She overcame Chinese Taipei’s, Chen Szu-Yu, the no.11 seed in a contest where in the fourth game she stood on the very precipice of defeat (9-11, 4-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7, 14-12).
Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
Manika Batra announced herself on the international stage at the 2011 ITTF World Tour Chile Open, she was the runner up in the under 21 women’s singles event; since that date she has progressed to establish herself as one of India’s finest players.
Tall, a wide wingspan, Manika Batra has always proved a tough opponent for an opponent playing diagonally, she is able to cover the angles. Ever since collecting four medals at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, including an historic women’s singles gold medal – becoming the first Indian to achieve the feat – a greater degree of confidence and resilience has been added to her technical skills.
Attack based mindset
Today, at the Budapest Olympic Hall, for the first three games against Chen Szu-Yu there was little evidence of that confidence but what followed was all the evidence you will ever need regarding her resilient nature.
The top-ranked Indian changed her stance ever so slightly behind the table, the change in her approach was oh-so-much-more. An attack based mindset was developing in Hungary, her Chinese Taipei opponent had no idea what was coming.
Batra could be forgiven for not believing she had a hope when she narrowly won the fourth game 12-10. Even at 1-3, it looked to be ominous for the Indian athlete; the fifth game was where her mood changed and so did that of the crowd.
Winning four games in a row, Batra rewrote the match highlights reel, a comeback that brought the fans on their feet.
Winner of the 2018 ITTF ‘Breakthrough Star’ award, Batra has sometimes left her fans wanting more. Today was not that situation – quite the reverse.