On Friday, Indian table tennis star Manika Batra created history after becoming the first female player from the country to reach the semifinals of the ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup, defeating Taiwan’s eighth seed and world no. 23 Chen Szu-Yu 4-3 (6-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 9-11, 11-9) to secure her entry into the last four.
In beating Szu-Yu, the 27-year-old displayed outstanding footwork, a powerful forehand and a resolute defence. When Chen was down one game to three, she worked around her serves and worked hard with an attacking forehand to even the match at three games apiece.
However, the Taiwanese paddler remained under immense pressure during the decider thanks to Manika’s relentless shots. With two matchpoints left, Chen’s backhand went long on Manika’s second matchpoint, clinching the match for the former Commonwealth Games gold medalist. Ultimately, Manika won the match thanks to her backhand angles, relentless forehand attack, and backhand sidespin serves at crucial moments.
On Saturday, Manika will have her semifinal outing match against Mima Ito, the second seed from Japan. With scores of 11-8, 11-5, 12-10, 15-13, the Japanese showed no sign of slowing down against sixth seeded Jeon Jihee of Korea in her quarterfinal match.
Manika’s semifinal entry marks the first time a female TT player from India has reached the last four stage of the marquee event, as well as the first Indian in 39 years. The 2015 and 2019 editions of this quadrennial tournament both saw Chanta Sharath Kamal and G Sathiyan finishing sixth.
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