UTT: Sharath, Madhurika script Chennai's escape to victory in last-four

Chennai Lions will meet Dabang Delhi in Sunday's Ultimate Table Tennis final.

Sharath Kamal (in picture) beat Anthony Amalraj 5-11 11-9 11-10.   -  UTT

It was yesterday once more. If anyone thought the finale of Dabang Delhi’s dramatic 8-7 win over U Mumba on Friday night was tough to replicate, it came about in precisely 24 hours.

Exceeding all expectations, much like the first semifinal, it took another dramatic ‘golden point’ to decide the second finalist of the Ultimate Table Tennis league here on Saturday.

Chennai Lions, trailing to Goa Challengers throughout the first 13 games of the best-of-15 contest, pulled off the last two. It came after Madhurika Patkar agonisingly dropped four match-points to a fighting Archana Kamath and was lucky to convert the fifth.

Before Madhurika took the team past the finish-line it was Sharath Kamal who re-wrote Chennai’s fortune in the contest.

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When Sharath entered the arena, Chennai was down 1-5, with Goa’s imports Cheng I-Ching and Alvaro Robles winning their singles. If Sharath was determined to prove his worth, Petrissa Solja was keen to make amends for the 3-0 drubbing she received at the hands of Ching.

Together, Sharath and Petrissa continued their winning run, and not surprisingly, won 3-0 against Ching and A. Amalraj.

Up next, Sharath faced Amalraj and the match followed the same pattern as the one witnessed during their clash in the league stage. Amalraj raced away with the first before Sharath won the next two, precisely the way he did in the league - 11-9, 11-10.

What followed was a charged-up Sharath roaring and clenching his fists in triumph, giving rib-crushing hugs to his teammates, uncle and coach Muralidhara Rao and team coach Peter Engel.

The tie-scored stood at 6-6 and it was left to the two ladies - Madhurika and Archana to settle it. Given the match-situation, Madhurika’s experience was expected to play a role. But it was the exuberance of Archana that called the shots in the first game.

Madhurika bounce right back in the second and opened up a 9-1 virtually ensure the tie-deciding game.

With the score tied at 7-7, the decider, Madhurika jumped to a 5-1 lead and maintained the gap till 10-6. Archana, as nervous as Madhurika, kept the ball in play and let her rival commit a series of mistakes to make it 10-10.

The final point witnessed another nervous rally before Archana failed to control a high ball and hit out.

Celebrations broke out with the high-point being Sharath lifting Madhurika off the ground before the Thane girl broke into a jig in the arena.

The results

Semifinal: Chennai Lions bt Goa Challengers 8-7 (Petrissa Solja lost to Cheng I-Ching 7-11, 9-11, 8-11; Tiago Apolonia lost to Alvaro Robles 10-11, 11-6, 3-11; Sharath Kamal and Petrissa bt A. Amalraj and I-Ching 11-5, 11-4, 11-8; Sharath bt Amalraj 5-11, 11-9, 11-10; Madhurika Patkar bt Archana Kamath 6-11, 11-8, 11-10)

Sunday’s fixture (final): Chennai Lions v Dabang Delhi (7 p.m.)