The withdrawal at the eleventh hour of A. Sharat Kamal has left the door ajar for most players who aspire to be win the men singles title that will be decided on Sunday in the ongoing UTT National Ranking (South Zone) Table Tennis Championships at the Jimmy George Indoor Stadium here. After G. Sathiyan and A. Amalraj had pulled out of the championships, owing to their participation in Bulgarian Open, the contest seemed brewing among three players—Sharath, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar. But with the former pulling out yesterday because of his indisposition, the field is now wide open for other aspirants, too. However, it is easier said than done.
The open draw taken out yesterday evening, has found Manav Thakkar as the rightful recipient of the top-seed position, currently leading points table at 351 points. His PSPB colleague, Sudhanshu Grover with 65 points less, has been seeded No. 2 while Maharashtra’s Siddesh Pande is placed at No. 3 and Sanish Shetty at No. 4.
Surprisingly, Harmeet Desai who was instrumental in helping India win men team gold in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Championships at Cuttack is at No. 6, a spot behind Haryana’s Jeet Chandra, and they are followed by Arjun Ghosh (No. 7) and Sushmit Sriram (No. 8) from Tamil Nadu.
Of the 16 men seeds, 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, who missed it out at Sonepat after his early loss, while the push could come from Sudhanshu, Siddesh, Jeet, Sanil, Arjun and Sushmit.
Similarly, the absence of Archana Kamath should be encouraging for top-seeded Sutirtha Mukherjee. The Haryana women annexed the title in Sonepat 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, looking to sneak in to grab the opportunity.
The seeding, however, in Youth Boys and Youth Girls has been along expected lines with Manush Shah and Prapti Sen getting the pride of place in respective sections. Manush Shah has been in fine form and should add another title to the season. 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.
As for the second day’s proceedings, the men and women qualification rounds were underway at the time of writing with just two rounds each having been completed. With just one player from each group (64 men) and (40 women) eligible to make the cut, the players will be fired up in the last round later this evening with all intensity intact.
The main draw in both sections begin tomorrow morning, first with preliminary round for men to eliminate 16 players as the main draw will be of 64 players, with no bye afforded. On the other hand, the second stage draw for women would have 16 byes with top eight seeds joining the 40 qualifiers in a draw of 64.