Asian Games: Sutirtha-Ayhika make history for India, stun Chinese duo
The victory over the Chinese is all the more significant because India have never won a medal in the women's doubles event at the Asian Games
Sutirtha Mukherjee and Aihika Mukherjee shocked world champion Chinese pair Chen Meng and Yidi Wang to enter the women's doubles semifinals, assuring India a historic table tennis medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Saturday.
In the quarterfinals, Sutirtha and Aihika won 11-5, 11-5, 5-11, 11-9 and the victory over the world no. 2 Chinese duo is all the more significant because India have never won a medal in the women's doubles event at the Asian Games.
The Indian players prevented their superior opponents from settling down right from the go. The Chinese duo was expected to roll over their opponents, but precisely the opposite happened as the Indians won the first game in just eight minutes.
The trend followed in the second game too, as the Indians wrapped things up in just nine minutes as the Chinese players committed several unforced errors, particularly on the forehand.
The home side players mounted a brief fightback, winning the third game. But the Indians regrouped quickly to assert themselves in the fourth game. The epic winning moment came when Meng sprayed her forehand into the net.
Earlier, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Manika Batra produced an error-filled game to make an early exit in the quarterfinals of the women's singles table tennis competition.
Manika went down against world no. 4 Yidi Wang of China 8-11, 12-10, 6-11, 4-11, 14-12, 5-11 and her defeat also marked the end of India's campaign in the singles event at the Hangzhou Games.
The ace Indian paddler showed a distinct weakness on her backhand in the first game. Even when she won the second and fifth games, it was more about the Chinese player making unforced errors in her eagerness to close out the points.
The classic example came in the fifth game when the Chinese sprayed an easy forehand while leading 11-10, which allowed Manika to claw back. But in the sixth game, Wang regained her focus and peppered Manika's backhand with powerful shots that the latter failed to reply properly.
Manika tried to fight back with a couple of powerful forehands, but Wang's astonishing retrieving ability left the Indian frustrated. Fittingly, a backhand error from Manika that brought the match to an end. Wang's laser-guided forehand found Manika fumbling as her backhand return sailed well wide of the table.
Earlier, the men's double pair of Manush Shah and Manav Thakkar also bowed out in the quarterfinals, beaten by South Korean pair Woojin Jang and Jonghoon Lim 8-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-6, 9-11 in the last eight.
The Indians were leading 6-2 in the fifth game which later stretched to 9-9, but they squandered several chances to go down against the Koreans. "We fought really well. We took the game to 9-9 in the last set. We were very close to winning but we have to take the learnings and move forward," said Manush after the defeat.
On the experience of playing against the world no. 1 Korean pair, Manush said: "They are probably the toughest opponents. We had some strategies and moves that we wanted to execute, and which we did. But in the end, we couldn't prevail."