Petrissa Solja needed to put behind her loss to Sutirtha Mukherjee on Friday, and she did that with a strong performance on Sunday against Puneri Paltan to help Chennai Lions collect a dominant win at the Ultimate Table Tennis.
Solja defeated Ayhika Mukherjee in three games to give Lions an early lead, before combining with Sharath Kamal to get past Harmeet Desai and Sabine Winter. The German made good use of an all-round game; she was precise in her stroke-making in offence as well as defence. The highlight of the evening was a block to counter a smash from the opponent in the mixed-doubles contest; it was an astonishing defence, and won Lions the point en route to a 3-0 drubbing.
“I just wanted to do better today than the last match. I wanted to show I can play table tennis well. [Ayhika] was leading [in the first game]; I needed time to find out her game. She was playing with a different rubber, [which] is a little similar to my sister. After that, when it was 10-10 I thought, ‘Yes, it’s my golden point now’. In the first match (on Friday), I lost one but today I thought it will be mine and I was feeling much better today than the first match,” she told Sportstar after Lions’ 10-5 win.
Crediting team-mate Sharath for his performance, she said, “Of course, you always need two players to win a good mixed doubles or doubles. Also in singles, the second set [Sharath] was playing so great. He was leading, then it was 10-10, and he had a good chance to win the set. All of us played well.”
This is not Solja’s first experience at the UTT. She participated for the first time in the first season, in 2017. “I was happy when they asked me whether I wanted to join UTT again. It was a good experience the first time, they are making changes. I think it’s more spectacular for people watching table tennis now,” she says.
Loud music and dazzling colours from the lighting system form part of the UTT coverage. Is the noise and the buzz disturbing? “During the match it is not a problem for me. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to find the rhythm because suddenly you have to stop and wait [before you can] play again. But to be on TV is very cool; table tennis normally doesn’t get too much attention. So, it’s fine,” she says.
Soon after her first taste of UTT, Solja had decided to take a break from table tennis. Her three-month break re-energised her. “In 2017, I took a break for about three months. I felt too tired. [In] 2016 I won silver at the Olympic Games with my German team and after that I didn’t have [a]break. I felt I made a mistake; I should have had a break and get energy again. In 2017, there were the [World Table Tennis] championships in Dusseldorf. So, of course, I also wanted to play that but then…also, after UTT, I could see that there was time for break, and after that I came back even stronger, I feel,” she says.
She hopes to win a medal in Tokyo, too. “The first goal is to manage to qualify for Tokyo. It was a great feeling to win a medal last time. So it would be nice to repeat it but I know it will be so, so hard. But I will try my best and prepare well and hope for the best,” she says.
Who, according to her, were the best Indian players currently? “The best one right now is Manika [Batra]. She is winning a lot of matches, also in the international scene. But also, [Sutirtha] Mukherjee, she is also playing great. Everybody is improving; I feel every match they’re improving and I think UTT is a big part of it. I hope in the future they can be even better than now,” she concludes.
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