Sharath's pullout opens door for hopefuls in TT tourney
Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 15 (IANS) The withdrawal of Achanta Sharath Kamal at the eleventh hour has left the door ajar for most players who aspire to win the men's singles title in the ongoing UTT National Ranking (South Zone) Table Tennis Championships at the Jimmy George Indoor Stadium here. The final of the event will be played on Sunday.
After Gnanasekaran Sathiyan and Anthony Amalraj pulled out of the championships owing to their participation in the Bulgarian Open, the contest seemed to be brewing among three paddlers -- Sharath, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar. But with the former pulling out on Wednesday because of his indisposition, the field is now wide open for the other aspirants. However, it is easier said than done.
The open draw taken out on Wednesday has found Manav Thakkar, currently leading the points table with 351 points, as the rightful recipient of the top-seed position. With 65 points less, his PSPB colleague Sudhanshu Grover has been seeded No. 2, while Maharashtra's Siddesh Pande has been placed at No. 3 followed by Sanish Shetty at No. 4.
Surprisingly, Harmeet Desai, who was instrumental in helping India win the men's team gold in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Championships at Cuttack, is at No. 6, a spot behind Haryana's Jeet Chandra. They are followed by Arjun Ghosh (No. 7) and Sushmit Sriram (No. 8).
Of the 16 seeded paddlers, the remaining eight players can at best cause a rare ripple or two, but are not made of the timber to put up a real impression going forward.
In other words, the actual contest for the crown looks to be between Harmeet and Manav, while the push could come from Sudhanshu, Siddesh, Jeet, Sanil, Arjun and Sushmit.
Similarly, in the women's section, the absence of Archana Kamath should encourage top-seed Sutirtha Mukherjee. Mukherjee was part of the Haryana contingent that annexed the women's team title in the UTT National Ranking (North Zone) championships in Sonepat in June and would want a repeat performance here.
But lurking around the corner are Madhurika Patkar (No. 2), Sagarika Mukherjee (No. 3), Divya Deshpande (No. 4), Sreeja Akula (No. 5), Pooja Sahasrabudhe (No. 6), Ayhika Mukherjee (No. 7) and Reeth Rishya (No. 8). The remaining seven seeds too will look to sneak in to grab the opportunity.
However, the seedings in youth boys and youth girls' sections have been along the expected lines with Manush Shah and Prapti Sen getting the top billing in their respective sections.
Manush Shah has been in fine form this season and should add another title to his kitty. But it remains to be seen whether Prapti manages her second successive crown with the likes of Shruti Amrute and Anusha Kutambale breathing down her neck.
The main draw in both the sections begins Friday morning, first with the preliminary round for men to eliminate 16 players as the main draw will be of 64 players with no bye afforded. The second stage draw for women would have 16 byes with the top eight seeds joining the 40 qualifiers in a draw of 64.