World Team TT: Sreeja shines as India continues to win

In one of Sreeja Akula’s daily calls from Chengdu to her coach Somnath Ghosh in India, a certain statement from her reflected both her current state of mind and her growing status in the Indian team. “She told me, ‘I play the tough games,'” Ghosh said.

And delivering stronger performance. Sreeja showed up for India’s opening match in their group match against Egypt – Manika Batra took the first shot in the previous two group ties – in the World Team Table Tennis Championships on Monday, sweeping past teenage sensation and 42nd ranked Hana Goda 3-0 (11- 6, 11-4, 11-1). A more experienced Egyptian awaited her with India leading 2-1, but the 24-year-old Indian was equally strong against world number 29 Dina Meshref in a 3-1 (11-8, 11-8, 9-11 , 11-6) victory.

With Manika also sliding past Dina 3-2 (8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 2-11, 11-8) in the second rubber, the women’s team secured a spot in the Round of 16 as second best team in group 5 behind Germany, the only team India went to.

The 77th-ranked Sreeja has won four of her five matches in the three group ties. Three of those four wins were against top-50 players – Germany’s No. 14 Nina Mittelham, Hana and Dina – and the only defeat against Germany’s eighth-placed Ying Han. This, in the Hyderabad woman’s first appearance at the prestigious World Team Event.

“I played well and have a lot of confidence in my game,” said the gentle Sreeja in an on-court interview after her win over Dina.

That confidence has been Sreeja’s companion lately. This year’s most important national title in singles and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games (CWG) – where she won gold in mixed doubles with Sharath Kamal and lost two exciting matches to the point of a medal in singles – were the main factors driving this. Have contributed.

“She’s got the faith now. And that’s the biggest reason why she’s performing as she is today,” said Ghosh, her coach for more than a decade. “Even I’m a little surprised, to be honest. But when you suddenly start playing well internationally, you feel like you can do something with it. Her CWG show gave her that big confidence boost.”

The world event has presented Sreeja with different kinds of challenges: from Nina’s menacing forehand to Ying’s defensive brilliance against Germany, from the youngest African continental title winner in form in Hana to Dina’s left-handed exam against Egypt. Sreeja has conquered most of them so far with confidence. Ghosh believes her sharper, more effective forehand playing stood out. Her long, pimpled backhand rubber, like Manika’s, already has a unique touch.

“She used to miss even a few easy forehands. Now that’s her strongest facet that bothers her opponents,” Ghosh said. “She also adapted and executed her strategies well. She is not very comfortable against left-handers, but still played a good game against Dina. Against Nina, I asked her to keep her more on the backhand and hit with her forehand. fall.”

Men remain undefeated

The Indian men’s team, meanwhile, was stretched by Kazakhstan in their third group match, but managed to take a 3-2 win and go unbeaten to head Group 2.

Kazakhstan had the world No. 28, Kirill Gerassimenko, who won both his matches against Harmeet Desai and G Sathiyan in the second and fourth rubbers respectively. But with Sathiyan beating Denis Zholudev 3-0 (11-1, 11-9, 11-5) in the opener and Manav Thakkar also beating Alan Kurmangaliyev 3-0 (12-10, 11-1, 11-8) ), the pressure was on Desai to deliver the decisive fifth rubber.

He did and saved game points in the first game against Zholudev before winning 12-10, 11-9, 11-6. India has collected six points from their three wins, but Germany and France each breathe five points. India will face France in their final group match on Tuesday, while Germany will face scoreless Uzbekistan. The top two teams are guaranteed a direct spot in the pre-quarter finals.

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