Gujarat's Harmeet Desai and West Bengal's Sutirtha Mukherjee came up with inspired performances to upset top seeds G Sathiyan and Manika Batra to reach the men's and women's singles table tennis finals in the National Games in Surat on Saturday. (More Sports News)
Harmeet defeated Sathiyan 4-2 while Sutirtha got the better of Manika by an identical margin. Later in the session, Manush Shah and Krittwika Sinha Roy clinched the mixed doubles gold for Gujarat, earning a standing ovation from the packed stadium.
But it was the riveting clash between two Team India players that kept the fans engaged in the morning session.
Harmeet rode on the vociferous support of the home crowd to start the semi-final clash against World No. 37 Sathiyan by taking an 8-0 lead in the opening set and never looked back thereafter.
By the time Sathiyan found his footing, the local hero was up two sets to nil. The top seed did manage to catch up with the last edition silver medallist by winning the next two sets but that hardly created a dent in Harmeet's confidence.
The 29-year-old from Surat tightened his defence, stuck to his game plan and closed out the semifinal on the third match point in the sixth set to stay on course for his second gold medal from these Games. He had led Gujarat to the men’s team gold earlier this week.
The chances of an all-Gujarat men's singles summit clash were however dashed when Haryana's Soumyajit Ghosh came back from a set down to beat Manush Shah 4-1 in the other semifinal.
In the women's singles semifinal, Sutirtha was equally dominating against Manika in the first match of the day.
She countered Manika's backhand threat by effectively slowing down the rallies to take the first two sets. Manika threatened to make a comeback after she saved a set point before winning the third.
The two players shared the next two sets but Sutirtha took control of the sixth by opening up a 5-1 lead then wrapped up the semifinal on the first match point.
Sutirtha, who has already won the team gold and has also reached the women's doubles final, will face second seed and national champion Sreeja Akula in the gold medal match. The Telangana paddler had little trouble in beating Diya Chitale of Maharashtra 4-1.
"I am quite comfortable while playing her as we have been playing together for a long time. There were quite a few good rallies but I was enjoying myself out there," Sutirtha said after her win.
Meanwhile, Gujarat picked up their first individual gold medal of the Games after Shah and Krittwika Sinha Roy registered a straight-sets win over Telangana's Sreeja and FR Snehit in the mixed doubles final.
The Gujarat pair were hardly tested in the gold medal encounter, winning 11-8, 11-5, 11-6.
Both the bronze medals went to West Bengal.