It was the first-ever South Indian Derby in the Ultimate Table Tennis, that too with a touch of local flavour. And the home support for the Bengaluru Smashers, with Pune-based owners, helped the UTT debutant stun defending champion Chennai Lions to register its maiden victory in the tournament.
With captain Manika Batra and seasoned Kirill Gerassimenko playing the star act, and debutant Jeet Chandra and Natalia Bojor playing the supporting role to perfection, the Bengaluru Smashers overcame Sharath Kamal-led Lions 8-7 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex on Thursday.
Gerassimenko, who had run over Sharath in the opening round of the WTT Star Contender event in Goa in March, faced stiff resistance from the veteran. However, Sharath’s powerful forehands were not good enough for him to breach Gerassimenko’s backhand wall as Sharath could only manage to win a solitary game.
Manika then doubled the Smashers’ lead, overcoming Sutirtha Mukherjee in a grudge match. Manika and Sutirtha were involved in a long-draw controversy since the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics and the rivalry was on display in the intense affair.
Eventually, Manika’s supremacy with a long-pimpled rubber off backhand reigned supreme against Sutirtha’s inaccurate forehand with soft pimples.
The mixed doubles affair, with Yangzi Liu as Sharath’s partner, also went in Manika and Gerassimenko’s favour with the same margin.
Despite trailing 6-3, Chennai Lions banked on southpaw Benedikt Duda, the World No. 33, to level the tie by maintaining a clean slate against rookie Jeet Chandra. However, Jeet, replacing Sanil Shetty who had failed to win a single game in the first two ties, stunned Duda with his consistent forehand winners to snatch a point.
Inspired by bespectacled Jeet’s performance, Natalia Bojor sealed the deal in Bengaluru’s favour by snatching the first game off favourite Yangzi Liu.
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