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Table Tennis

Ayhika, Sreeja create history by taking two matches off China at World Team Table Tennis C'Ships

In an incredible turn of events, Ayhika handed out world no. 1 Sun Yingsha her first defeat in a team event, while Sreeja hammered world no. 2 Wang Yidi 3-0. By taking two matches off China, India became the first team to beat two Chinese players at any team event since 2010.

Ayhika, Sreeja create history by taking two matches off China at World Team Table Tennis CShips

Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula defeated world no. 1 Sun Yingsha and world no. 2 Wang Yidi at the World Table Tennis Team Championships in Busan on Friday. 


Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 16 Feb 2024 11:40 AM GMT

Indian sports fans woke up to an incredible Friday morning. Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula stunned two of the world's top-most paddlers during India's Group 1 fixture against China at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan, South Korea.

As incredible as it might sound, Ayhika, who brought home India's maiden Asian Games doubles medal along with Sutirtha Mukherjee in 2023, took down the world no. 1 Sun Yingsha, while Sreeja, ranked 49th, forced world no. 2 Wang Yidi to kowtow before her.

By upsetting the world's top two players, Ayhika and Sreeja also registered their biggest wins in women's singles.

Though China, in the end, avoided the impending loss, with Manika Batra losing her two matches and Ayhika gasping for breath in the decider against world no. 4 Wang Manyu, India did manage to take a lofty bite on China's single-minded domination in the event, taking off two matches in the tie.

Never in the history of the Championships, China, the most successful nation, lost more than two matches at any stage since 2010, emphasising its domination in the tournament. Hence, Ayhika and Sreeja's, despite the collective defeat of the team, commanding wins held sheer significance.

Ayhika is no stranger to taking down the Chinese might. At the Asian Games in Hangzhou, she and her women's doubles partner Sutirtha were involved in digging a hole in the swelling Chinese pride by beating world champions Chen Meng and Wang Yidi in the quarterfinals.

But what is noteworthy here is that Ayhika's singles spell had never been as promising as her doubles stint. Hence, this win marked a significant milestone in her singles career as it came as a breath of fresh air and instilled a sense of confidence in her game, which, going forward, will encourage her to pursue more on this front as well.

At the World Team Championships, she had to deal with a willy component in Yingsha, while it was Sreeja, who negated the challenge from Yidi this time around.

That the victories of Ayhika and Sreeja were incredible resonated in the thought of Neha Aggarwal Sharma, former Olympian turned commentator.

"What an unbelievable morning!" Neha wrote on X as India rattled the Chinese by claiming a 2-1 lead. "It’s a score we have been waiting to see for sooo many years!!" she would add.

Ayhika, known for her deft use of anti-spin rubber for deceiving opponents, has not only successfully broken the deadlock of playing Chinese paddlers by beating two top players in marquee events in two consecutive years but also collapsed a record.

On Friday, Yingsha succumbed to her first-ever defeat in a team event when Ayhika handed her a crushing 3-1 defeat.

While Ayhika, also known as 'Tricky Ayhika' in the circle for her deceptive style of play, chop-blocked Yingsha's winning march, Sreeja, who in recent months made tremendous progress by winning the WTT Feeder Corpus Christi and attaining her career-best ranking of 49, also did not back off in engaging in eye contact with world no. 2 Yidi.

Talking to The Bridge last week before leaving for South Korea, Sreeja said that she always wanted to win at the international level and focused on giving her best rather than looking at the calibre of her opponent. And staying true to her words today, she showed that her mind and body are in sync.

The 25-year-old defeated the Chinese juggernaut in world no. 2 Yidi in straight games with brutal forehand winners.

Yidi might have not forgotten the danger of playing an in-form Indian paddler at esteemed events. Sreeja is also no stranger to pulling off stunning wins in team events. She previously made her mark at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 when she paired up with Achanta Sharath Kamal to clinch the mixed doubles gold medal.

Sreeja's win against Yidi further demonstrated the fact that she has made her entry into the big leg. The win will also elevate her confidence level as she can now hold the belief that she is also a big-match international player.

With this tournament holding sheer significance for paddlers as Olympic qualification is at stake, Ayhika and Sreeja will look to work extra hard in India's coming matches to help both the team and their causes.

Teams reaching the quarterfinals in Busan will also secure tickets to the 2024 Paris Olympics, and India's qualification will help two singles players make it to the Games for individual events. Hence, Ayhika and Sreeja - both buoyant by two fantastic wins - will be charged up to fulfil the dream of playing in the Olympics.

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