Harmeet and Sreeja emerge champions

Pondicherry: Harmeet Desai gave himself a wedding gift when he beat Manush Shah 4-1 to win the men’s singles title at the UTT National Ranking Championships (South Zone) at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium here today.

Earlier, in a display of character, determination and anticipation, Sreeja Akula clinched a 4-3 victory over Swastika Ghosh to claim the crown after Sonepat and Thane in 2019.

Harmeet, who married Krittwika Sinha Roy last month, has enjoyed good form here, made steady progress throughout the championships. On Thursday, he did it twice, first in the semi-finals and then in the final against his teammate. In the end, it was rather easy for the Indian international who has been deprived of the title lately.

However, that wasn’t all for the RBI woman, who lagged behind 1-3. Swastika, the singles crown winner at Dehradun, never failed to employ his offensive forehand and smart long serves.

Still, patience ended up paying off for Sreeja, especially in the decision maker. At 4-8, she took four points on the trot to equalize. On her serve, she won both points with a 10-8 lead. But the IAA girl managed to put the game in the balance. On short serve Sreeja converted the weak return to a point and anticipating another long serve the RBI woman positioned herself a bit off the table to crush her for the title.

In the morning, Manush Shah continued his hard-hitting frenzy, quelling the possible challenge that 13th seed Anirban Ghosh could have healed. After taking a 2-0 lead, the ninth seeded left-hander lost one game before securing his authority in the next. He lost a few game points, just like Anirban, before pulling off the third. Anirban couldn’t do much in the face of this and ultimately lost the fifth as well, giving his opponent a clear pass in the final.

The unstoppable Harmeet Desai played a percentage match against first-time semi-finalist Shubh Goel. The unranked Delhi boy appeared lost to the astute Harmeet, who lost his first game after a 3-0 lead. But the Gujarat paddler completed the formality in Game 5 to beat the winners at home.

In the women’s singles semifinals, Swastika Ghosh showed her authority to beat Diya Chitale, also of Maharashtra 4-2, despite RBI’s Ayhika Mukerjee opening the game well and leading 3-1. Ayhika withdrew one, winning the fifth but couldn’t hold out against Swastika’s calculated attack.

In the second semi-final, Sreeja Akula had to work a lot to overcome a difficult challenge from Diya Chitale of Maharashtra. The Under-19 girl not only managed to tie the score 3-3 well, but caused a lot of trouble with her fluid strikes in the decider, which Sreeja won on her second match point.

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Delhi’s Payas Jain once again proved his caliber, winning the Under-19 Young Boys’ title by beating Yashansh Malik, also of Delhi 4-0. The match did not raise the slightest uproar, the Worlds bronze medalist performing a clinical act by demolishing his opponent in the final. Payas earlier defeated Vishwa Deenadayalan of Tamil Nadu, winner in Dehradun, in the semi-final.

In the Under-19 Girls final, Yashaswini Ghorphade hit the furrow to wear the crown. The title triumph came its way, after a long time, because the girl from Karnataka had been very inconsistent. However, today she played well to outsmart Pritha Vartikar of Maharashtra, who beat seed Suhana Saini in the semifinals.


Men’s Singles: Final: Harmeet Desai (Guj) bt Manush Shah (Guj) 11-9, 12-10, 6-11, 13-11, 11-7.

Semi-finals: Manush Shah bt Anirban Ghosh (RSPB) 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 14-12, 11-7; Harmeet Desai bt Shubh Goel (Del) 11-5, 11-6, 11-3,8-11, 11-7.

Women’s Singles: Final: Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Swastika Ghosh (AAI) 5-11, 11-7, 7-11, 17-19, 11-4, 11-6, 12-10.

Semi-finals: Swastika Ghosh with Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI) 9-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-5, 3-11, 11-2; Sreeja Akula bt Diya Chitale (Mah) 11-6, 9-11, 9-11, 13-11, 11-9, 4-11, 13-11.

Young Boys U-19 Singles: Final: Payas Jain (Del) bt Yashansh Malik (Del) 12-10, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5.

Semi-finals: Payas Jain bt Vishwa Deenadayalan (TTTA) 11-8, 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7; Yashansh Malik bt Divyansh Srivastava (UP) 11-4, 11-6, 12-10, 11-3.

Young Girls U-19 Singles: Final: Yashaswini Ghorphade (Kar) bt Pritha Vartikar (Mah) 10-12, 11-9, 13-11, 12-10, 11-4.

Semi-finals: Pritha Vartikar v Risha Mirchandani (Mah) 11-4, 18-16, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7; Yashaswini Ghorpade by Munmun Kundu 11-4, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7.

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