Telangana women march ahead in national TT

Hyderabad, Jan 5 (IANS) Seven out of eight group-toppers in the men’s section and six in women’s moved into the team events pre-quarter-finals of the 77th National and Inter-State Table Tennis Championships at the Kotla Vijay Bhaskara Reddy Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday.

The men’s teams that have moved into the second stage knockout phase include Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB), West Bengal, Gujarat, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) while a good battle is brewing between Delhi and Maharashtra A in Group G for the top slot.

A clear picture will emerge only after the third round matches get over. But one expects both Delhi and Maharashtra A to enter the knockouts.

As for the women’s affair, PSPB, West Bengal, Maharashtra A, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have moved into the last 16 and await another team from Group E as its leader and other second-placed teams from each group.

However, one cannot rule out the possibility of a three-way tie in Group H where Tamil Nadu, Kerala and North Bengal are pitted against one another, having one-win-one-loss equations.

In what was a minor ripple in Group E, Maharashtra B defeated Delhi 3-0 in the first round and could emerge as the No.1 team from the group. But it may not prevent Delhi women from entering the pre-quarters as the second team as they are expected to beat a weak Tripura.

But there was something to cheer for hosts Telangana as their women’s squad, comprising Nikhat Banu, Varuni Jaiswal and Sreeja Akula, booked their pre-quarterfinal berth. But their men, who lost to West Bengal 0-3, face Uttarakhand next in a three-team group and the hosts must win to qualify.

On the other hand, Telangana’s women’s team did not stretch it too far. Posting their first authoritative 3-0 win over Uttar Pradesh, they took on a problematic Gujarat in the second round.

Varuni did not provide a good start when she went down to Gujarat No. 1 Frenaz Chipia 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 5-11, but the experienced Nikhat restored Telangana’s pride to level the score with a 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-9 triumph over Gohil Divyaba.

Then it was left to Sreeja to take it on from there to give the hosts a head start as they went 2-0 up. Sreeja beat Nirja 13-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-8. Nikhat, playing her reverse singles, again saw that Telangana had a hassle-free pre-quarterfinal entry. She beat Frenaz 11-7, 11-9, 11-3.

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