Brave Sreeja comes from behind to win the title; Thakkar triumphs

HYDERABAD: Telangana rower Sreeja Akula , who represents your employer Reserve Bank of India , came from behind to perform a thriller against Railways' Takeme Sarkar for the second title of the UTT National Table Tennis Championship (West Zone) season at Sulochana Devi Singhania School in Thane on Friday. The men's title was bagged by Manav Thakkar who defeated Sanil Shetty 4-1.

Sreeja showed his temper, especially when he was almost down and out, to snatch the crown of single women out of Sarkar's reach. The RBI girl won the thriller of a 4-3 final.

The little girl has grown in stature in recent times and was very evident in the face of adversity. Sreeja lost 1-3 and it seemed that he had abandoned the fight since his body language did not suggest an impending fight. Nor did he seem to have any chance, especially when Takeme reigned in the sixth game, first leading 1-4 and then 9-5.

Given the situation and an inconsistent Sreeja making too many mistakes, the title was in Takeme's lap. But Sreeja moved slowly but surely and reduced the lead to 8-9. It was then that the railroad rower took his timeout, but the movement helped Sreeja climb 10-9.

When Takeme retired, he maintained the advantage with some pressure on his opponent. But the RBI rower seemed to enjoy it while snatching Takeme's profit from 11-all to take his score to 12-11 and then finish in style at his service.

This returned the confidence to the decisive one, since he led 5-4 when they changed sides. After that, he allowed only two points to the Railroad player who by then had been impatient. And an excellent right-wing winner of Sreeja only improved her reputation as a brave girl who can alter all the calculations.

Manav Thakkar, playing true to his seeding position, stamped his authority yet again this season to claim the second successive men singles trophy.

Manav, who missed it out in the first two national ranking events at Sonepat and Thiruvananthapuram, warmed up with his first one at Howrah during the East Zone championships. And here, he was determined right from the word go against Mumbai man and his PSPB teammate, Sanil Shetty.

Manav always maintained the advantage and led 2-0 before granting the third to the left-hander who was not good to receive. So much so that he could not exploit the left-handed natural angle. But the best seeded simply ran over him in the next and for the fifth game, it was quite the opposite of Sanil's screams.

Results: Men's singles (final): Manav Thakkar (PSPB) bt Sanil Shetty (PSPB) 11-4, 11-8, 8-11, 11-2, 11-9. SFs: Manav Thakkar bt Manush Shah (Guj) 12-10, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7; Sanil Shetty bt Jeet Chandra (Har) 11-6, 12-10, 11-4, 11-5.

Women's singles (final): Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Takeme Sarkar (Rlys) 12-10, 9-11, 5-11, 9-11, 11-4, 13-11, 11-7. SFs: Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Diya Chitale (Mah) 11-2, 15-13, 11-7, 11-3; Takeme Sarkar (RSPB) bt Kaushani Nath (RSPB) 11-3, 11-5, 11-4, 7-11, 11-3.