Manika Batra became the first Indian woman to win a medal in the ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup after shocking world number six Hina Hayata of Japan in the bronze playoff on Saturday.
The world number 44 defeated Hayata 4-2 (11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 12-10, 4-11, 11-2) to achieve the incredible feat. Besides the historic bronze, Manika won $10,000 as prize money for her efforts.
"This win is a huge one for me, defeating the top players. I enjoyed playing and fighting well against them to achieve a fantastic result. I will continue putting the extra yard in all my future tournaments. I expect all of you to extend your full support," said an emotional Manika.
Earlier in the day, Manika lost 2-4 (8-11, 11-7, 7-11, 6-11, 11-8, 7-11) to the second-seeded Mima Ito in the semifinals.
Manika started strongly, winning the opening game and then taking 2-1 lead in the match. However, it was her fighting qualities that came to the fore in the fourth game of the bronze-medal playoff when she was down, with the fourth-seed Hayata holding the upper hand with four game points at 10-6.
That was when Manika launched herself, using all the tricks in her bag, attacking the flanks with crispy forehands, including some counters, and using the backhand punches to good effect and with precise placements.
At deuce, Hayata had the service, but an unforeseen fault, with her service hitting the net, and the ball dropped on her side to go down. This enabled Manika to go up (11-10) and take the winning point when she had the service back with her.
However, Hayata ran with a good lead in the next game to reduce the margin. But Manika changed her strategy in the sixth game, attacking from the word go and allowing her opponent the first point at 3-1. Hayata claimed another point at 5-2, but that was all she could manage.
With frustration setting in, Hayata became more error-prone, unable to keep the ball on the table even as Manika went from strength to strength to finish the game 11-2.
On her way to the bronze, Manika upset world number 7 Chen Xingtong from China in the round of 16, then accounted for 23rd ranked Chen Szu-Yu 4-3 of Taipei in the quarterfinals.
The $200,000 event featured the top 16 players in the men's and women's singles from the continent based on world rankings and qualifications.