16 and raring to go, Manasi Munj springs a surprise
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Manasi Munj barely belied any emotion as she readied to return Divya Deshpande's serve in the final of the district-level table tennis tournament at Deccan Gymkhana on Tuesday. Manasi was facing Divya, ranked seventh in India, only for the second time and she was expected to put up a nervy display. However, as the match progressed, Manasi surprised everyone. Though the 16-year-old lost the first game 11-1, she rallied back to bag nine points in the next game, even leading against Divya for a while.
There was no fairy-tale ending for Manasi as Divya closed out the match in four straight games. But the youngster's talent definitely caused a few heads to turn with even Divya conceding that it was a hard fought match. "She plays a very intelligent game and is one of the few people who uses spin effectively," said Divya.
Manasi said that while she went into the final with nothing to lose, she was disappointed for not winning a game off Divya. "I was very close in the second game and two good returns would have sealed the game, but then Divya's quality prevailed," said the diminutive teenager. Manasi admitted that the absence of her father helped her. "The last time I played Divya, my father was shouting instructions to me all the time and that was a bit disconcerting. He wasn't there for the final and I played with a free mind," she said.
Manasi, who trains at the Sharda Center table-tennis courts, has played for Maharashtra in the school nationals and has a silver medal in the team event to show for her efforts. Training under coach Upendra Mulye, she is highly rated on the junior circuit. Mulye said Manasi was one of those players who have a very distinct attacking aspect to their game. "She has a lethal forehand and her hitting is very clean. She also manages to impart a huge amount of top spin on her shots and that gives her a distinct advantage," said Mulye. He is hoping that his charge chooses to make table-tennis her full-time vocation as he feels she has it in her to succeed at the international level.
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