TT: Batra, Mukherjee off to promising start in singles after India’s tame defeat in mixed doubles

Tokyo, Jul 24 (PTI): India’s slim hopes for a table tennis medal in mixed doubles vanished in no time but Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee made promising starts to their women’s singles campaign at the Tokyo Olympics here on Saturday.
The start to India’s table tennis campaign was disappointing with Sharath Kamal and Manika losing 0-4 to the third seeds Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei in the mixed doubles round of 16. However, world number 62 Manika returned to beat 94th-ranked Tin-Tin Ho of Britain 4-0 in her singles opener while 98th-ranked Sutirtha made a strong impression on her Olympics debut with a come from behind 4-3 win against 78th-ranked Linda Bergstrom of Sweden. Mukherjee play Portugal’s Fu Yu in the second round while Manika takes on Ukrain’s Margaryta Pesotska, who is ranked 32.
Mukherjee showed remarkable grit to down her Swedish opponent after trailing 1-3 in the best of seven affair. She won 5-11, 11-9, 11-13, 9-11, 11-3, 11-9, 11-5.

The match saw plenty of long rallies with Linda, who is a defensive player, relying on backhand pushes away from the table. The Indian, who also plays with a pimpled rubber like the more accomplished Manika, had to be patient to win points against the Swede.
Former player and India great Kamlesh Mehta felt what made the win Sutirtha’s win more remarkable was that she had almost no practice against a defensive player.
Earlier in the mixed doubles, Sharath and Manika had to make all chances count against a superior opponent from Chinese Taipei but they couldn’t do so after leading 5-1 and 5-3 in the first two games. In the end, it was a comfortable 11-8 11-6 11-5 11-4 win for Lin and Cheng.

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