Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ayhika Mukherjee’s giant-slaying run ended with a bronze medal at the Asian Games after the Indian duo lost the closely-fought women’s doubles semi-final 3-4 to North Korea here on Monday.
Sutirtha and Ayhika lost 3-4 (11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 8-11, 9-11, 11-5, 2-11) to Suyong Cha and Sugyong Pak.
The Indians, who had stunned the world champions from China in the quarter finals on Saturday, got the bronze by virtue of reaching the semi-finals.
With Monday's result, the Indian table tennis challenge ended at the Games.
While India were hopeful of a few medals from table tennis, none had thought that it would be Sutirtha and Ayhika who would end up earning the country's only medal from the sport in this edition of the Asian Games.
The more fancied medal hopefuls, like Manika Batra and the men's team, fell in the face of stiff challenges, but the Mukherjee girls from Naihati in North 24 Parganas defied all odds by achieving a sensational run. Their victory over the Chinese pair of Meng Chen and Yidi Wang in the quarters will go down as one of the most memorable moments for India at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
Overall, India, who had impressed all by picking up men’s team and mixed doubles bronze medals in the 2018 edition of the Games, will be disappointed with their table tennis campaign.
The difference in the contest on Monday from the quarter-final match was the fact that the North Koreans were not as troubled in the game by the anti-spin rubber of Ayhika as the rattled Chinese pair.
“We failed to show the patience which they did. We were a little nervous in the last game and they attacked well to finish points,” said Sutirtha. “But we are happy for a podium finish, the first in women’s doubles,” added Ayhika.
The Indians needed to sustain the attack in the last game but were not able to do so. In fact, the North Koreans went on a counter-offensive to take a 6-1 lead.
The spirited Indian pair had no answer to that and their fate was sealed when Sutirtha netted a forehand.
Nevertheless, it was still a monumental achievement by the Indians who are now ready to build on their success.
Ayhika and Sutirtha found success in Hangzhou with a straightforward approach. Ayhika used her backhand to slow the game before Sutirtha attacked the opponents with a booming forehand on the following return. That strategy surprised the higher-ranked opponents.
The anti-spin rubber that Ayhika helped her in puzzling her opponents, but it was not the rubber alone. The 26-year-old fine-tuned her game to maximise its benefit.
While Ayhika has anti-spin on the backhand and short-pimple on the forehand, Suthirtha plays with short-pimple combination on forehand and plain rubber on the backhand.
With inputs from PTI