Smashers' narrow win eliminates Yoddhas

With the teams tied at 12-12, Olympic bronze medallist and World No. 19 Kim Song I defeated Polina Mikhailova 11-4, 6-11, 11-9 in the decider, to clinch the tie for her side.

World No. 19 Kim Song I proved superior to 64th ranked Russian Polina Mikhailova and defeated her 2-1 in the decider to win the tie for the Dabang Smashers.   -  Sushil Kumar Verma

It was the kind of finish that makes team events such a thrilling fare. In a close encounter that went to the wire, Dabang Smashers just about managed to subdue a fighting Oilmax Stag Yoddas 14-13 and became the first team to reach the semifinals of the inaugural Ultimate Table Tennis league here on Tuesday.

With the teams tied at 12-12, Olympic bronze medallist and World No. 19 Kim Song I proved superior to 64th ranked Russian Polina Mikhailova 2-1 in the decider.

Smashers completed its league engagements with 69 points and moved temporarily to the top of the table. The result also meant curtains for Yoddhas that finished with 61 points. Though at present, Yoddhas occupy the joint second spot with Falcons, it is likely to slip out of the top-four by the time the league phase ends on Thursday.

To stay in contention for a place in the semifinals, Yoddhas was required to beat Smashers by an unlikely double-digit margin. Given the formidable strength of Smashers, Yoddhas’ elimination was a foregone conclusion.

On the bright side for Yoddhas, who fought all the way, Manika Batra and World No. 29, Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri won both their doubles and singles games against higher ranked rivals.

Manika surprised Kim Song I 2-1 before Quadri upstaged World No. 14 Marcos Freitas by a similar margin.

The match of the evening was the one involving Quadri and Freitas. This fast-paced match, laced with frequent long rallies thrilled the sparse gathering. Quadri’s ability to unleash powerful drives from various angles against the higher-ranked left-hander from Portugal was the high-point of the match.

He deservedly claimed the ‘golden point’ in the final set with one final powerful forehand to emerge a worthy winner. This result tied the score at 12-12 with the final ladies singles match to follow. However, it was the Smashers who crossed the finish-line.

The action now shifts to Mumbai on Wednesday, for the final two league matches, the two semifinals and the final.

The results:
Dabang Smashers beat Olimax-Stag Yoddhas 14-13 (G. Sathiyan bt Tomislav Pucar 11-2, 11-7, 6-11; Kim Song I lost to Manika Batra 9-11, 9-11, 11-4; A. Amalraj and Tetyana Bilenko lost to Aruna Quadri and Manika Batra 11-10, 9-11, 9-11; Kou Lei bt Tomislav Pucar 11-7, 11-10, 9-11; Tetyana Bilenko beat Doo Hoi Kem 11-6, 11-8, 10-11; Marcos Freitas bt Jubin Kumar 11-6, 11-6, 11-2; Madhurika Patkar lost to Doo Hoi Kem 9-11, 5-11, 7-11; Marcos Freitas lost to Aruna Quadri 8-11, 11-8, 10-11; Kim Song I bt Polina Mikhailova 11-4, 6-11, 11-9).

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