Although Manika Batra and Sutritha Mukherjee are seeded to set up the title-clash in the National table tennis championship at the nearby Panchkula later this week, the presence of four former champions in the draw poses a serious threat to prospects of several prominent players.
World No. 63 Manika and defending champion Sutirtha can expect a tough passage ahead with several players looking to regain their lost status.
Former champions Madhurika Patkar and Archana Kamath will be placed in the 9-16 bracket when the seeding is drawn on Tuesday morning. Two other National champions K. Shamini and Ankita Das are expected to come through the qualifying phase that began on Monday.
Madhurika, the recipient of Arjuna Award last year, and Archana could well be among the ‘dangerous floaters’ in the pre-quarterfinals and scalp any of the top eight seeds.
In the last edition, three-time winner and ‘comeback lady’ Shamini’s victims included Sreeja Akula before she ran into eventual semifinalist Ankita Das. In this edition, Sreeja is set to be seeded third or fourth.
This time, besides Shamini and Ankita, some of the likely qualifiers to the main draw are Pooja Sahasrabudhe, Shruti Amrute, Senhora D’Souza, Divya Deshpande, Harsha Vardhini, Surbhi Patwari, Moumita Dutta, Nikhat Banu, Amrutha Pushpak and Frenaz Chipia.
With the Olympic qualification event round the corner, the form and fitness of Manika and Sutirtha will come under scrutiny. Unlike most leading names from the men’s section who have worked together at Sonepat and later in Chennai, most prominent women have trained on their own during the past year.
After the first set of league matches, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal inaugurated the championship at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium on Monday. Also present during the brief opening ceremony was Haryana’s Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, who is also the President of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI).
The top-8 ranked women players: 1. Manika Batra (Pet), 2. Sutirtha Mukherjee (Har), 3. Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI), 4. Sreeja Akula (RBI), 5. Krittwika Sinha Roy (Pet), 6. Anusha Kutumbale (TTFI), 7. Prapti Sen (Ben ‘A’), 8. Kaushani Nath (Rlys).