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Bhavina Patel made history at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Friday by storming into the semifinals and assuring India a medal in Women's Singles Class 4 table tennis on Friday.
In the quarterfinals, the 34-year-old from Ahmedabad stunned 2016 Rio Paralympic Games gold-medallist Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia in straight games 3-0 (11-5,11-6, 11-7) in just 18 minutes.
Bhavina is the first Indian woman table tennis player to reach the semifinals in the Paralympic Games. In the semifinals, she will meet China's Zhang Miao on Saturday. If she wins on Saturday, she will play the winner of the other semifinal, an all-Chinese affair between Zhou Ying and Gu Xiaodan. If she loses the semifinal, Bhavina will return home with a bronze medal as both losing semifinalists will get bronze medals from this year.
Bhavina has assured India's first medal in table tennis at the Paralympics. India's 12 medals at the Paralympics so far have come in three sports -- athletics (3 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze), powerlifting (1 bronze), and swimming (1 gold).
In the quarterfinals on Friday, Bhavina came up with a sound strategy and attacked Borislava from the start. She broke away from 3-3 in the first game to win the next six points and take a 9-3 lead before clinching the game 11-5. Bhavina won 15 points on her serve while losing only 11.
In the second game, the Indian continued her domination and opened an early lead to go up 5-2. Borislava reduced the lead to 4-6 but Bhavina continued to win points with ease as she wrapped up the game 11-6. The Serbian put up a stiffer fight in the third game and tied the score at 5-5 but Bhavina won the next few points to go up 10-6. The Serb saved a match point but Bhavina could not be denied as she wrapped up a historic win.
Bhavina, who had qualified second in her Group A after losing to China's Zhou Ying, came back strongly to win two knockout round matches on Friday and get into medal position.
The first Indian para-TT player to reach the pre-quarterfinals, Bhavina beat Brazil's Joyce de Oliveira also in straight games to advance to the next stage. Her opponent in the quarterfinals was gold as well as a silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Paralympics but Bhavina did not get overawed by her opponent's ranking and reputation and played her natural game.
Bhavina has spent most of the Covid-19 lockdown at home preparing with the help of a Robot 'Butterfly - Amicus Prime', brought through government assistance. The Sports Authority of India has also helped her with an Ottobock Wheelchair worth Rs 2.74 lakh.
Bhavina, ranked eighth in the world in her category, is a recipient of the Sardar Patel Award and the Eklavya Awards and has been a medallist at the Asian Games.
She won the bronze medal in International Table Tennis Federation Asian Para Table Tennis Championship that was organised from August 23-31, 2017 in Beijing, China. She had reached the ranking of world No. 2, by winning a silver medal in the individual category at the PTT Thailand Table Tennis Championship in 2011.
Bhavina trains under coach Lalan Doshi at the Blind People's Association in Ahmedabad.