UTT 2019: U Mumba seals semis berth with win over Puneri Paltan

After four matches, U Mumba tops the table with 33 points, while Paltan, which upstaged defending champion Dabang Delhi in the opener, has 23 and almost certain to stay confined to the cellar.

Kirill Gerassinmenko beat Chuang Chih-Yuan in the singles competition.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

U Mumba became the first team to ensure a place in the semifinals with a 9-6 defeat of a struggling Puneri Paltan in the Ultimate Table Tennis league here on Saturday.

After four matches, U Mumba tops the table with 33 points, while Paltan, which upstaged defending champion Dabang Delhi in the opener, has 23 and almost certain to stay confined to the cellar.

For a change, the overseas players made the decisive difference. In the last two singles, 39th-ranked Kirill Gerassinmenko surprised 36th ranked Chuang Chih-Yuan 2-1 and 11-ranked Doo Hoi Kem expectedly proved superior to Sabine Winter, ranked 58th, by a similar score-line to make U Mumba’s victory look convincing.

Even in the first two singles, Mumba proved stronger with Paltan left to rue the successive defeats of the recently-crowned Commonwealth singles champions Harmeet Desai and Ayhika Mukherjee. In short, Mumba won all four singles 2-1 and lost the mixed doubles by an identical margin.

From the outset, it was evident that the pressure of scoring a big win to stay in contention for a place in the semifinals was growing big on Paltan. And this suited Mumba.

Sutirtha Mukherjee started well and came out stronger against Ayhika. But a bigger blow awaited Paltan when Harmeet found the pressure of a must-win situation too much to handle against an upbeat Manav Thakkar and lost the first two games.

In mixed doubles, Chuang showed his class and played the key role in Paltan’s win. If Paltan expected Chuang to recreate the magic against Gerassimenko, it was not to be. The Kazakh proved a shade better, coming up with some splendid responses and winning the big points.

“I had lost to him in the last Asia Cup, so I was keen to beat him today. It was a tough match and I must say I got a bit lucky in the final game. But it was a close match,” said Gerassimenko.

Doo, despite a minor hiccup on ‘golden point’ in the second game, was always in control against Sabine and provided a fitting finale to her team.

The scores

U Mumba beat Puneri Paltan 9-6 (Surtitha Mukherjee bt Ayhika Mukherjee 11-7, 6-11, 11-5; Manav Thakkar bt Harmeet Desai 11-6, 11-8, 8-11; Thakkar and Doo Hoi Kem lost to Chuang Chih-Yuan and Ayhika 5-11 6-11, 11-6; Kirill Gerassimenko bt Chuang Chih-Yuan 11-7, 6-11, 11-8; Doo Hoi Kem bt Sabine Winter 11-5, 10-11, 11-3.