UTT 2018: Manav Thakkar, overseas players shine for Challengers

Having played his part in the doubles, Manav took the first two games 11-9, 11-8, but dropped the third at 8-11 after leading 8-6.

This is the second time Manav Thakkar upstaged a higher ranked overseas player.   -  Vivek Bendre

Notwithstanding his World ranking of 243, Manav Thakkar reinforced the growing impression of being the next big hope in Indian table tennis as he upstaged World No. 18 Kristian Karlsson to emerge as a standout performer in Empowerji Challengers’ much-needed, big 15-6 triumph in the Ultimate Table Tennis league, here, on Thursday.

Having played his part in the doubles, Manav took the first two games 11-9, 11-8, but dropped the third at 8-11 after leading 8-6. The World junior No. 2 has been included in the Asian Games squad and this victory is sure to take his confidence to a new high. This is the second time Manav upstaged a higher ranked overseas player, the first being World No. 33, Ukraine’s Kou Lie, 2-1 in the second match of the league in Pune.

Besides Manav, Challengers was well served by its four overseas players as it cruised it its first victory in three matches. The triumph raised Challengers to the third spot with 30 points in the six-team competition. United, worried after Elizabeta Samara twisted her ankle in the second game of the doubles, but returned after a long medical break, slipped to the fourth spot at 26. These teams are likely to slip a place when Warriors (21) meets last-placed Falcons (15) on Friday.

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For Challengers, Simon Gauzy (France), Tiago Apolonia (Portugal), Lee Ho Ching (Hong Kong) came well before Manav held the centre-stage. Hungary’s Georgina Pota expectedly put the finishing touches by taking a winning lead against Madhurika Patkar before the Indian snatched the final game.

The results:

Empowerji Challengers beat Maharashtra United 15-6 (Divya Deshpande lost to Lily Zhang 11-6, 10-11, 10-11; Simon Gauzy bt A. Amalraj 11-7, 11-9, 10-11; Manav Thakkar and Georgina Pota bt A. Amalraj and Elizabeta Samara 11-7, 11-6, 11-10; Tiago Apolonia bt Kristian Karlsson 11-9, 8-11, 11-8; Lee Ho Ching bt Elizabeta Samara 11-3, 11-9, 11-6; Manav Thakkar bt Kristian Karlsson 11-9, 11-8, 8-11; Georgina Pota bt Madhurika Patkar 11-7, 11-7, 8-11).