Star paddler Manika Batra created history by becoming the first Indian woman table tennis player to finish the Asian Cup TT tournament with a bronze medal at the Hua Mak Indoor Stadium in Bangkok on Saturday. In the bronze playoff, the unseeded Manika edged past world No. 6 Hina Hayata of Japan 4-2 (11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 12-10, 4-11, 11-2) to achieve the feat. The world No. 44 Indian will also carry home a prize money of $10,000 for her efforts.
“I am happy to win the bronze medal. This win is huge for me, defeating top players. . . I enjoyed playing and fighting against them. I will continue to put in the extra yard in all my future tournaments,” said an emotional Manika.
Earlier in the day, Manika lost 2-4 (8-11, 11-7, 7-11, 6-11, 11-8,7-11) to second seed Mima Ito of Japan in the semifinals. Ito managed to subdue the Indian with percentage play.
In the bronze playoff, Manika’s fighting qualities came to the fore in the fourth game when she was down in the dumps with fourth-seed Hayata holding the upper hand at 10-6. That was when Manika upped the ante, attacking the flanks with crisp forehands. Her counter-attacking play took Hayata by surprise. Manika used her backhand punches to good effect. At 10-10, the serve was with the Japanese. But an unforeseen fault by Hayata wherein her service hit the net and the ball dropped on her side itself helped Manikago up with a lucky point. Manika then held on to her serve to win the game.
The Japanese, however, raced to a handy lead in the next game and went on to win it to r educe the margin. Manika then changed her strategy in the sixth game, attacking from the word go. With frustration setting in, the Japanese became error-prone, unable to keep the ball on the table, as Manika went from strength to strength to win the game and match at 11-2.