Mukherjee duo of Sutirtha and Ayhika made India and themselves proud as the pair ended their campaign at the Asian Games in Hangzhou with the bronze medal on Monday.
In what turned out as a gripping women’s doubles semi-final, the unseeded North Korean pair of Cha Suyong and Pak Suyong did what the world champion duo of China—Meng Chan and Yidi Wang—failed to do, preparing well against the Indians for the crucial match to win 7-11, 11-8, 7-11,
11-8, 11-9, 5-11, 11-2 and enter their maiden final, leaving the Indians to satisfy with the bronze medal, the Table Tennis Federation of India said.
The North Korean pair will play the top-seeded Koreans, who beat Japan, in the gold medal match later this evening.
Confused as the pair was initially with the rubber Ayhika used, Cha and Pak took their time to settle down. Once they did, they turned the heat on winning the fourth and fifth games to go 3-2 up. Yet,
the gusty Indians slowed the pace of the sixth game and took the match to the decider.
But continuous unforced errors by the eighth-seeded Indian pair, in its anxiety to take control of the decider, put paid to its ambitions as the young North Koreans attacked with accurate finishes and
placements. Unable to bear the mounting pressure, the Mukherjees caved in and took their first point after conceding four to their rivals.
Their next point came when the unseeded pair was 8-2 up, and with six match points, it was curtains for the Indian duo. Eventually, the unseeded women won with a lot to spare.
The Mukherjee duo gave credit to their opponents.
“We failed to show the patience which they did. We were a little nervous in the last game and they attacked well to finish the points,” admitted Sutirtha.
“But we are happy for a podium finish, the first in women’s doubles,” added Ayhika.
Nevertheless, the two Kolkata paddlers did a fine job of elevating themselves, particularly after depriving the Chinese of a medal at the Games for the first time since their maiden podium finish in the Bangkok Games in 1966.