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Olympic Games: golden days in Gold Coast

Wednesday 16 June

A first round exit on debut in the women’s singles event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games but since those days, a great deal has happened to India’s Manika Batra, none more than just under two years later when in action on the east coast of Australia.

Manika Batra most effective using long pimpled rubber on the backhand

Earlier this year at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha, by virtue of her world ranking she booked her place in the women’s singles event in Tokyo; play in the Metropolitan Gymnasium scheduled to start on Saturday 24th July.

In Rio de Janeiro, she was beaten by Poland’s Katarzyna Grzybowska, a close contest, she experienced defeat in six games (10-12, 11-6, 14-12, 8-11, 11-4, 14-12).

Unquestionably it was a most worthy performance, now retired from the international stage, Katarzyna Grzybowska was a player capable of most worthy results. Most notably at the 2012 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open in Doha, in the opening round she ousted China’s Wen Jia in six games (11-8, 11-9, 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 12-10).

However, the effort made by Manika Batra in Rio de Janeiro paled into the background when compared with the accomplishment at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, staged in the Oxenford Studios from Thursday 5th to Sunday 15th April.

Contrary to expectations she remained unbeaten in both the women’s team and women’s singles events. Staying close to the table, blocking effectively on the backhand, the side of the racket on which she uses long pimpled rubber, attacking with a high level of consistency from the forehand, the surface being smooth reversed rubber, she upset the odds.

Lining up alongside Mouma Das and Madhurika Patkar, she guided India to a 3-1 win in the women’s team final against Singapore; the success in the opening match against Feng Tianwei (11-8, 8-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7) setting the stage.

Later, after Madhurika Patkar had lost to Yu Mengyu (13-11, 11-2, 11-8) and Mouma Das had partnered Madhurika Patkar to doubles success against Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan (13-11, 11-2, 11-8), Manika Batra accounted for Zhou Yihan (11-7, 11-4, 11-7) to seal the victory.

The overriding belief was that lightning would not strike twice, the Singaporeans would work out answers and reverse the decisions, especially Feng Tianwei who had nine ITTF World Tour women’s singles titles to her credit and had won the Commonwealth Games women’s singles title in both 2010 in New Delhi and 2014 in Glasgow.

It was not to happen, lightning struck again, again and again. Safely through to the quarter-finals, Manika Batra beat Zhou Yihan (11-5, 11-6, 11-2, 6-11, 11-9), followed by Feng Tianwei (12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 5-11, 5-11, 11-9, 13-11) and Yu Mengyu (11-7, 11-6, 11-2, 11-7) to seal gold.

Such is the form of which Manika Batra is capable, in Gold Coast she took India to new heights, can she do the same in Tokyo?

Editor: Ian Marshall

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