Freitas and Sathiyan star in Smashers' triumph

Spurred on by the local crowd, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran pulled all the tricks out of his hat to record a memorable 11-7, 6-11, 11-6 win over World No. 41 Par Gerell.

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran celebrates after beating World No. 41 Par Gerell of Sweden.   -  M. Vedhan

Portuguese World No. 14 Marcos Freitas and Chennai's very own Sathiyan Gnanasekaran racked up splendid victories to lead Dabang Smashers to a 14-13 triumph over Falcons TTC on day four of the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) league here on Sunday.

Spurred on by the local crowd, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran pulled all the tricks out of his hat to record a memorable 11-7, 6-11, 11-6 win over World No. 41 Par Gerell. After having played Gerell twice earlier, Sathiyan and coach Ilija Lupulesku developed an intricate plan to attack the Swede's backhand and the Chennai lad stuck to it, earning his side two crucial points from the match.

Leading from the front, Smashers' captain, Freitas, played two perfect matches and earned his side all six points — which proved to be pivotal in his team's victory. In the first match of the day, the Portuguese completed an 11-5, 11-2, 11-3 thumping of Sanil Shetty in a one-sided affair.

Freitas generated heavy spin on his forehand and repeatedly played to Sanil's body, denying him any room or breathing space. Though Sanil attempted a comeback, he made matters worse for himself with a string of unforced errors and thereby gave away the match.

Cheered on by the crowd, Freitas then came back to complete an 11-7, 11-6, 11-8 thwarting of Par Gerell, bringing the score to 6-6 and giving his side a much-needed boost after they'd lost two consecutive games.

Falcons' star performer, Britain's Liam Pitchford, had to sit out of the tie owing to a bad stomach and was replaced by the unheralded Arjun Ghosh. In the eighth tie of the evening, 20-year-old Ghosh packed quite a punch when he took on the World No. 28, Kou Lei.

With virtually nothing to lose, a pumped up Ghosh snatched a surprise 11-4 win in the first game. Still figuring out what hit him, Kou Lei struggled to catch up to Ghosh, who raced to a four-point lead and had two-match points in the second game, only to squander both.

Kou Lei came back remarkably — with a four point streak of his own — to win the second game.  The 28th ranked then brought all his experience to the table to thwart Ghosh 11-3 and take the third game. While Ghosh may have lost the match, he certainly won the hearts of the crowd and the players around him.

The fourth day of the league having fallen on a Sunday,  recorded its highest attendance and the DJ acknowledged the crowd by spinning many a catchy Tamil song.

Brief scores:

Dabang Smashers beat Falcons TTC 14-13: Marcos Freitas beat Sanil Shetty 11-5, 11-2, 11-3; Mousumi Paul lost to Wu Yang 9-11, 4-11, 7-11; Sathiyan Gnanasekaran & Tetyana Bilenko lost to Sanil Shetty & Lee Ho Ching 8-11, 6-11, 6-11; Marcos Freitas beat Par Gerell 11-7, 11-6, 11-8; Tetyana Bilenko lost to Lee Ho Ching 11-8, 9-11, 5-11; Sathiyan Gnanasekaran beat Par Gerell 11-7, 6-11, 11-6; Kim Song I beat Sutirtha Mukherjee 11-3, 11-4, 11-3; Kou Lei beat Arjun Ghosh 4-11, 11-10, 11-3; Kim Song I lost to Wu Yang 7-11, 6-11, 10-11.

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