Before the men’s team final, if anyone suggested that Petroleum’s formidable trio of G. Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar could be stretched to deciding sets by little-known rivals from Delhi, many would have scoffed at the idea.
As it turned out, Parth Virmani, Sudhanshu Grover and Payas Jain did last five sets before the difference in the exposure and experience of the members of both finalists made the decisive difference in the National table tennis championship here.
Eventually, the score-line read 3-0 in favour of Petroleum without reflecting on the closeness of the contest. Of the lot, Sathiyan lived most dangerously against Virmani. Facing three match-points at 7-10 in the deciding set, Sathiyan pulled off five straight points to win.
The women’s final witnessed proceedings contrary to expectations of a close-clash. Railways’ Sagarika Mukherjee, Takeme Sarkar and Moumita Dutta joined hands for a resounding 3-0 victory over defending champion Bengal ‘A’.
For the record, the title was 11th for Railway women and first since January 1999 when it triumphed in Chennai. Since its last win, Railways finished runner-up six times. For Petroleum men, it was the 24th occasion as champion.
Delhi, playing the final after 1983, came up with a gallant display. Grover, struggling for the better part of the team event, took the first two sets against Harmeet to inject the much-needed self-belief in the Delhi camp. But as the match grew longer, Harmeet proved stronger and raced away with the last three sets.
Sathiyan, expected to brush aside Virmani in quick time, dropped the second and fourth sets in contrasting ways before staring at defeat in the fifth. Serving at match-point, Virmani played it safe with a short serve and Sathiyan was quick to finish the point. Thereafter, Sathiyan gave nothing away.
Payas, 16, touted as the most promising talent in the country, made the most of the big stage by winning the close first and fourth sets, before Thakkar broke away from 3-3 in the decider to win eight of the last nine points.
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