New Delhi: Indian men cruised into the semifinals of the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships here Monday while the women entered the last four after giving a scare to mighty Singapore.
The men paddlers headed by Sharath Kamal won their matches against Northern Ireland, Scotland and Malaysia with identical 3-0 margins to top Group F. Singapore were first in Group E ahead of England, who qualified as the second best team out of four.
The Indian women went down fighting to Singapore 1-3 but 3-0 victories over Scotland and Wales in Group E ensured their entry into the semifinals. The losing semifinalists are assured of a bronze medal.
England will be the semifinal opponents for both the Indian teams.
India's standout performance of the day came in a losing cause.
The women's team comprising Mouma Das, Madhurika Patkar, and Neha Aggarwal was 0-2 down against Singapore and were expected lost the third singles as well.
But Delhi girl Neha staged a morale boosting show to pull one back for the hosts, beating 102-ranked Zhou Yihan 11-6, 12-10, 7-11, 11-6.
The 428th ranked Indian foxed her fancied opponent with her long pimpled rubber, which she has started using again since December. Neha had played with the anti-rubber most of her career but shifted to plain on both sides after representing India at the 2008 Olympics.
"The period when I was playing with the conventional rubber was tough. I was nowhere near making the Indian team. Things have changed now and the win today is a big confidence booster," Neha told IANS.
Her performance inspired Mouma to give her best in the opening reverse singles against World No.4 Feng Tianwei.
The 234th ranked player surprised by taking two games off her famed opponent before losing 5-11, 11-8, 5-11, 12-10, 4-11.
Mouma was leading 10-3 in the fourth game but a lapse in concentration gave Feng the opportunity to come back and make it 10-10. The Indian, however, managed to take the next two points and push the match into the decider.
"Mouma looked tired after the fourth game. It took a lot out of her and that is why she could not do much in the decider. Having said that, she fought really hard against a top player," coach Bhawani Mukherjee told IANS.
In the men's team event, India were expected to breeze past Ireland and Malaysia, and face some resistance from the Scottish unit.
The Scots ended up being easy meat for the Indians. Top-ranked Indian, Sharath Kamal, dispatched Sean Doherty 11-6, 11-3, 11-8 in the first singles.
Nineteen-year-old Soumyajit Ghosh produced a clinical effort to beat Scottish No.1 Gavin Rumgay 11-5, 11-5, 11-8.
Sanil Shetty lost the second game against Niall Cameron before completing an 11-6, 9-11, 11-8, 11-3 win.