Even the best athletes wilt under pressure. This was on display as U Mumba’s overseas stars Quadri Aruna and Lily Zhang lost the plot against Puneri Paltan in a must-win match on Thursday.
Paltan, thanks to a superlative display by southpaw Manush Shah and Hana Matelova, overcame its fancied opponent to win the Maharashtra Derby 10-5 in the final league game of Season 4 and entered the Ultimate Table Tennis semifinal.
U Mumba, boasting the highest-ranked singles players in the world in both the men’s and women’s sections — was the favourite going into the contest.
But Manush, creating unusual angles primarily with his forehand top-spin shots, continued his sensational run to surprise World No. 17 Quadri Aruna as Paltan began the evening on a high.
Hana, riding high on confidence and boosted by an army of schoolkids cheering for the home team, stunned Lily Zhang in a battle that witnessed quite a few rallies.
With Paltan 4-2 ahead, Manush and Hana combined to win the mixed doubles against Manav Thakkar and Lily.
Omar Assar, Pune’s main singles player, sealed the deal in the fourth tie despite conceding a game to Manav.
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