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World Table Tennis Championship (1951) – Vienna, Austria
Table Tennis Wonder Sayeed Sultana

In the Marcel Corbillon Cup – World Table Tennis Women’s Championship at Vienna (Austria) 1951, a nervous looking girl in plaited hair, forced champion Angelica Rozeanu to surrender a game—the only game she ever did in the entire course of the championships she won for Romania and herself.

Critics and sportswriters who had planned to retire for snacks sat back drubbing at their typewriters, till the next morning papers headlined in their boldest type available, the “CINDERELLA GIRLS OF THE CORBILLON CUP.”

Those who hadn’t seen this wonder made a scramble for more copy to feed the evening readers. Questions and more questions were shot to and fro with the constant buzzing of teleprinter and telephone lines. WHO IS SHE?… WHAT IS SHE? — PRINCESS OR PAUPER?

While all this was happening in the busy of world of Vienna outside, the nervous girl with the plaited hair, slipped into her “shalwar and long frock with a dupatta of netted lace around her neck” to meet the flashing cameras of the paper-and-print world.

Sayeed Sultana is her name. She was 14—the youngest girl ever to have entered for the world championships. She took a game off the champion Angelica Rozeanu, darling of sports columnists on the continent.
Sayeed said little. But her pint-sized personality was enough to pack the sports pages with the most touching accounts about her native home in Hyderabad, her ma and pa, her schooling etc.

Angelica Rozeanu’s Championship Point

To Sayeed Sultana, all this is as incredible as Alice in Wonderland. The only real thing she knows and believes is that she is India’s No. 1 women’s player—though she hadn’t yet grown up to the full stature of womanhood. At less than thirteen years she annexed the National Women’s title in India in 1949. Nobody has since been able to take it away from her.

Extremely shy in the company of strangers, Sayeed has a sharp sense of humor and a ready wit. The Cinderella Girl of the Corbillon Cup is the undisputed champion of India. A world title should be hers before she is twenty or at least that’s what some of the hard-boiled and most
conservative European critics seem to think. To us she is our brightest hope. To India—the trump card in the pack.

She has a free and easy style for defense, fluent on both flanks and has a fellow through as deadly as it is undetectable. Quick on her feet and prancing like a new-born kitten, she is a treat to watch—winning or losing. She is what they call “a great little kid.” She’s just that and nothing else.

Born on September 14th, 1936, Miss Sultana took up to the game in 1943. Her first debut was the State Championships of Hyderabad bringing a defeat into victory in the final against the then Hyderabad No. 1, from 15-20 to 22-20. The next year she became India’s No. 1 and retained the honor in 1950. In the Inter-State Championships in Colombo, she played 11 matches and lost none. In the National Championship she won 10 matches conceding only two games.

In the World Championships Singles event in Vienna, she defeated the American No. 1 Ichkof in the first round. During the continental tour of the Indian team she defeated No. 1 of USA, No. 1 and 2 of Holland, Egypt, Switzerland, Saar, Luxembourg, Germany, Israel, Czechoslovakia, and Belgium. Altogether she played 55 matches and won 40 and lost only 15.

While she was participating in the Scarborough tournament, the posters around the room described her as the “World’s Table Tennis Wonder.”

World Table Tennis Championship (1952) – Bombay, India
Bharat’s National Champion is a Muslim Girl.

Japan sprang a great surprise in the world of sports when it snatched the Marcel Corbillon Women’s Cup in the World Table Tennis Championship held in Bombay (India). Shikuda Narahara, the Japanese Star, stunned the spectators and her opponents with the spell-binding forehand attack, and knocked away the world championship.

There was another woman that brought honor to Asia and that mantle of honor fell on a Muslim girl, Miss Sayeed Sultana of Hyderabad, the 16-year Table Tennis Champion of India.

When it was announced that the World Table Tennis Championship was to be held in an Asian country, a Press report carried the news that the Hyderabad Government had granted a scholarship to Miss Sultana to go abroad for intensive practice. But for unknown reasons she could not go. Perhaps it would have made a great difference if she had gone.

Miss Sultana had a star-hitting sports career from the day she began playing in 1948, and within a year she surprised the Table Tennis fans when she won the Indian Table Tennis Championship for women at Hyderabad at the age of 13.

At the World Championship held in Bombay none of the Indian players fared better than Miss Sultana. She won the World Women’s Consolation Singles beating Wonk Bik Yiu of Hongkong (21-11, 21-11). There was quite a good field in this competition and therefore Sultana’s victory
was a great achievement.

Johnny Leach, Britain’s current world singles champion commented on India’s Miss Sultana, he said “She should make a champion with a little more experience.” Leach added, should be a quarter-finalist this year.

Johnny Leach vs. Richard Bergmann in Championship

Richard Bergmann, four-time world champion thought the women’s individual title would be fought out by the present holder, Mrs. Angelica Rozeanu of Rumania, Gizi Farkas of Hungary, and Trude Pritzi of Austria, with India’s Miss Sayeed Sultana the “outsider.”

World Table Tennis Championship (1954) – London, Great Britain
India’s chances at Wembley
Opinions of Barna and Leach

India’s chances in the World Table Tennis Championship, opening at Wembley have been adversely affected by the draw but it should put up a grand fight against the toughest opposition, according to Johnny Leach and Victor Barna.

India’s excellent women’s team had also drawn unfortunately against the strongest possible opponents in Romania, Hungary and Scotland. “Again it will be close struggle for the third place between India and Romania”, said Leach. Miss Sultana was easily the most outstanding woman player in the tournament, but she would lack first-class support from team fellows. She is India’s main hope and is capable of upsetting the best of players.

Barna, widely considered as the world’s greatest table tennis player said “In Sultana, India has a girl with world championship potentialities. I have played against her several times on my two visits to India and in championships abroad. I have not seen her for some time now but if she has developed her attack as I advised her then, she will have all a champion requires. In the past, she had very much relied on defense, which is why she has not been outstanding in the world class games. She is still young, and a great future is ahead of her.”

Young and active Sayeed Sultana, India’s Number One woman table tennis champion, has come out with flying colors in the World Table Tennis Championship played at Wembley. She won both her singles, and made a gallant, though unsuccessful, attempt to carry Meena Parande to
victory in the doubles. Miss Sultana had a comfortable win on her match against Miss Ferron of Ireland, her good defense contributing to the victory.

India’s women’s team did fairly well in the Corbillon Cup, winning three of their six matches in their group, which was won by Hungary. But Sayeed Sultana was outstanding yet again competing at the highest level in the world.

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