Paddler Bhavinaben Patel scripts history, storms into Paralympics final
Bhavinaben Patel continued to script history as she became the first Indian to enter the final of the table tennis event in Tokyo Paralympics with a hard-fought 3-2 win over China's Miao Zhang in a Class IV semifinal on Saturday. She stunned her world number three, Chinese opponent 7-11 11-7 11-4 9-11 11-8 in the semifinal showdown that lasted 34 minutes.
She will take on world number one Chinese paddler Ying Zhou in the summit clash on Sunday. Patel, who plays in a wheelchair, lost the opening game in a tight contest. But, she made a strong recovery, claiming the next two games to take a 2-1 lead. Patel was in great touch as she needed only four minutes to wrap up the third game.
In the fourth game, Zhang showed her class not giving Patel the bragging rights just yet as the match headed into the decider. In the deciding fifth set, Patel quickly raced to a 5-0 lead. But the Chinese made a strong comeback. Trailing 5-9, Zhang won three successive points to make it 8-9.
In a bid to gather herself, Patel took a time-out after which there was no stopping her. Armed with two match points, she notched up the win. This was Patel's first victory against former world number one Zhang. They had met 11 times before.
Patel will face a tough challenge from Zhou in the gold medal match. She had gone down tamely (3-11 9-11 2-11) to the Chinese player in her opening group match on Wednesday. In the quarterfinal on Friday, Patel had defeated 2016 Rio Paralympics gold winner and world number two Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia to clinch a medal and script history.
"When I came here, I just thought that I would give my 100% without thinking of anything," said Patel, who was diagnosed with polio when she was a 12-year-old. "If I continue with this confidence with the blessings of the people of my country, I think I will win gold tomorrow. I am ready for the final," she added.
Notably, she reached world number two ranking in 2011 after winning a silver medal for India in PTT Thailand Table Tennis Championship. In October 2013, Patel won silver in the women's singles Class IV at the Asian Para table tennis championships in Beijing.