TOKYO: Sunday was a day to forget for most Indian athletes at the Tokyo Games, but Manika Batra shone bright as she pulled off a stunning come-from-behind win against the higher-ranked Margaryta Pesotska to enter Round 3. But it was curtains for another Indian paddler G Sathiyan.
Manika, World No 62, lost the first two games 4-11, 4-11 in a little over 10 minutes and at that moment it seemed like she was down and out.
Without the national coach by her side and with her personal coach watching from the gallery, it seemed she would succumb to a painful loss.
Her opponent, World No 32, was playing fast and aggressive and the Delhi athlete seemed to have no answers.
But she refused to throw in the towel, playing a more aggressive brand of table tennis and the rallies became longer which in turn put the Ukrainian under increasing pressure.
Manika’s ability to utilise the pimpled rubber when least expected and the way she twiddled with her bat amazingly to find forehand and backhand winners was a thing to behold.
The 26-year-old created history by becoming the first Indian paddler to enter the third round of a table tennis singles event in the Olympics. She next plays World No 17 Sofia Polcanova from Austria.
While one showed supreme confidence without a coach, Sathiyan succumbed to the pressure on his Olympic debut to exit the men’s singles competition after losing to World No 94 Hong Kong’s Siu Hang Lam in the second round.
It seemed like a walk in the park early on with the Chennai paddler building up a commanding 3-1 lead. But then he showed passivity as he ended up losing four games in a row to lose 3-4 to the Hong Kong player.
“I was playing well initially and I was aggressive with my strokes and serves. But after the fourth game, he slowed down proceedings and improved his receives and returns. As the rallies got longer, I felt more pressure and I became a little passive from the fifth game onwards. I should have continued being aggressive despite his variation in pace. I just made the error of playing it safe,” said Sathiyan.
He added that the presence of his personal coach S Raman would have helped him during that period but he did not want to use that as an excuse. Clearly emotional after the result, Sathiyan said it would take some time to recover from this as he had high hopes from the Games.
“A few sleepless night for sure. Its hard to digest but I will be back stronger. I have an amazing support system back home with my coach, my mother and my friends and relatives. They have been trying to keep my mood in check and the supporters have shown tremendous love and I will certainly repay them,” the World No 37 added.