Reeth Rishya: Goa's miracle worker proves a point in UTT
Reeth Rishya, who has fallen down the pecking order in the Indian table tennis team, has dragged Goa Challengers to the 2023 UTT final, taking a significant step in the race to the Paris Olympics.
Pune: As Goa Challengers prepare to take on the star-studded Chennai Lions in the Ultimate Table Tennis 2023 final on Sunday, the surprise finalists are looking to Reeth Rishya to pull off another miracle for them.
The 28-year-old Reeth, who has a lot of points to prove over the next year as India's Olympics contingent takes shape, has been one of the most impressive players in this season of the UTT. On Friday, as she beat Sreeja Akula to knock favourites Dabang Delhi out, she proved an important point.
"I've played with Sreeja many times. I lost 1-2 when Delhi and Goa met in the league stage. I had prepared well this time, but there was too much pressure at the end for both of us. Both of us wanted to play safe, I took one risk and it paid off for me," Reeth told The Bridge.
During the semifinal, Reeth was the only player who went into the practice arena to warm up with some ferocious smashes. At moments, it looked like the real action was happening on the practice tables and not in the main arena. Reeth said playing the final match of the ties require some special preparation, mostly of the mind.
"I was sitting in the dugout for four matches, so I was doing my pre-match warm-ups. (Before my matches) I tell myself to be calm, take it point by point. Mental training keeps me composed. I tell myself to keep breathing. I meditate before the match," she said.
Reeth in 4-way fight for Paris Olympics spot
The Chennai-born player, who has been dropped to the reserves list of the Indian team for the upcoming Asian Games and the Asian Chamionships this year, is no stranger to playing the final match in team events.
At the 2022 Commonwealth Games, it was Reeth who had lost the decider as India's women's table tennis team, the defending champions, were knocked out in the quarter-finals. It was a picture of the distraught Reeth Rishya that summed up what was probably the biggest disappointment for India at the CWG last year.
Since then, Reeth has fallen down the pecking order. She is currently the 5th-ranked Indian female table tennis player. Manika Batra and Sreeja Akula are the top two, while the next three - Sutirtha Mukherjee, Diya Chitale and Reeth - are all between world ranks 100 to 107. Ayhika Mukherjee, ranked a little lower down, is thought to be a good bet against foreign teams because of her spin-heavy game. How this mini-battle plays out will decide the Paris Olympics Indian team.
But things are looking up for her. Reeth reached the Round of 64 at the World Table Tennis Championships Finals in May this year, the best result for India in singles apart from Manika Batra.
In Sunday's final, Reeth is likely to go up against one of her rivals in this race, Sutirtha Mukherjee, to decide the champions of this UTT season.
"We wanted to face Chennai in the final because we wanted to take revenge. On paper, Chennai is really strong, but we can prove to be strong enough. I'm prepared for any opponent," Reeth said.
Chennai Lions defeated Puneri Paltan Table Tennis 8-3 in the second semi-final, while Goa Challengers registered a thrilling 8-7 win in their last tie to reach the final.
UTT Final squads
Chennai Lions: Achanta Sharath Kamal, Yangzi Liu, Benedikt Duda, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Payas Jain and Prapti Sen
Goa Challengers: Suthasini Sawettabut, Harmeet Desai, Alvaro Robles, T Reeth Rishya, Krittwika Sinha Roy and Anthony Amalraj