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Tokyo Olympics: Manika Batra becomes first Indian table tennis player to reach the 3rd round

Manika Batra pulls off a major upset by defeating World No. 32 player and entering the third round of the Tokyo Olympics - the very first Indian paddler to do this.

Manika Batra at the Tokyo Olympics

Manika Batra storms into the 3rd round of the Tokyo Olympics (Source: Twitter/@manikabatra_TT)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 26 July 2021 6:07 AM GMT

True to her style, Manika Batra pulled off a stunning comeback in her match against the higher-ranked Margaryta Pesotska at the Tokyo Olympics.

The World No. 62 struggled for rhythm in the first two games of the match, losing them both in 10 minutes, but after the third, Manika Batra turned things around and caused a major upset. Playing a 7 games thriller, Manika Batra created history as she won in little under an hour, 11-4, 11-4, 7-11, 10-12, 11-8, 5-11, 7-11.

Showing the door to the World No. 32 player from Ukraine, Manika has now created history by becoming the first Indian paddler to enter the 3rd round of a table tennis Singles event at the stage of the Olympics.

At 29 years of age, Margaryta is an experienced paddler and has qualified for four Olympics on the trot and cashed in on that advantage, initially.

Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Manika, penned history on Day 1 of the Tokyo Olympics as she gifted Indian table tennis with a watershed moment as she became the first female paddler to win a Single's match at the Olympics after a long span of 29 years. Into the 3rd round now, the dream run continues for Manika Batra.

Earlier today, World No. 38 player Sathiyan Gnanasekaran failed to capitalise in the key moments of his match against Hong Kong's Lam Siu-Hang and lost, 4-3 to crash out of his debut Olympics.

However, Manika Batra ensured that Indian do not have too much to be sad about on an otherwise bleak day at the Olympics, as she thunderously won against the 2-time European Championships silver medallist, Pesotska.

The first set as expected went Margaryta Pesotska's way as the Ukrainian took the game, 11-3. Manika seemed to have had her weakness exposed - the forehand as she made several errors on returns.

The misery continued for the Indian in the second game as well, as she had no answers to the returns of Pesotska. The Ukrainian seemed to be meaning business as she bundled out the second game, 11-4.

The strong forehand returns were too good for the like of Manika as she looked flabbergasted and had no idea of how to counter the forehand of her opponent.

The Indian needed a comeback and she did. For the first time in the match, the Indian looked more in control of the game and commanded the rallies.

She took the game to her opponent rather than sitting back and waiting for things to happen. With 4 game points, the Indian closed out the game, 7-11 which would have given her a lot of confidence going into the remainder of the match.

Probably Manika's best performance in a game so far in the tournament came in the 4th game in this match. She played some world class table tennis as she tied the match at 2 games each while taking the game, 12-10. The best rally of the game came in this game when the scores were tied at 9-9.

The fifth game of the match went in the way of the Ukrainian where she took an advantage of a 3-2 in the match-winning the game, 11-8. Moving forward, it was Manika who had to put in the extra effort to make a comeback into the match and have any hopes of progressing into the next round.

Manika needed some luck and maybe a few prayers to keep her alive in the match and what a comeback she made! Being down 2-5, she made an astonishing return and went on to win the sixth game of the match, 11-5. You could see her being very focused and maybe chanting a few prayers during her timeout. Whatever she did, it paid off as the Indian took the match to the deciding game.

The girl from New Delhi did it. Manika Batra went through to the 3rd round after an authoritative last game of the match. What seemed like a gloomy start for the Indian turned out to be a delightful finish.

Manika Batra basically replicated her opponent's performance in the last round and clearly had no issues with the forehand which she had earlier. With this win, India's hope of a medal is still alive in the Women's Singles event!

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