Barely hours after losing her semifinal match to Japan’s second seed Mima Ito in the Asian Cup table tennis tournament in Bangkok on November 19, 2022, Manika Batra produced a dazzling performance to outclass another Japanese Hina Hayata, World No.6 and the third seed, (4-2) 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 12-10, 4-11, 11-2 in the play-off match for the third place and bagged a historic bronze medal.
A big shot-maker with a big backlift, the left-handed Hayata is a paddler capable of producing winners from tough positions and angles. Strategically, Manika largely nullified it by twiddling her racquet getting her long pimpled rubber to do the rest. Hayata struggled with the spin. But to reduce the Indian’s performance to ‘funny’ rubbers will be false. Manika never relented from going for attack. While trailing or when ahead, she kept her focus and continued with her aggressive approach.
The best example surfaced in the fourth game against Hayata. Trailing 6-10, Manika, ranked 44 in the world and unseeded at the Asian Cup, produced a string of forehand winners to win the game at 12-10.
To beat two world class players-Chen Xingtong (World No.7) in the quarterfinals and Hayata (World No.6) now — is no easy task, and Manika has proved the doomsayers all wrong with a performance to cherish for a long time.