Scripting a thrilling finish, Dabang Delhi bounced back from 2-7 to win 8-7 over Chennai Lions in the last league encounter of the Ultimate Table Tennis league here on Thursday.
For the first time, four out of five matches ended with 3-0 verdicts. As a result, the decisive difference in favour of Delhi came with G. Sathiyan beating Sharath Kamal 2-1 in the second singles of the tie.
The defeat with the narrowest of margins did not hurt Chennai (42 points) as it finished second behind U Mumba (44). Dabang, tied with Goa Challengers at 41 points, finished fourth, based on the lesser number of matches won from five ties.
As a result, Delhi will face Mumbai in the first semifinal on Friday. On Saturday, Goa will take on Chennai for a place in Sunday’s final.
“This was exactly what we wanted,” revealed Sathiyan and continued, “We wanted to enter the semifinal with a win and preferred to face Mumba, whom we beat 9-6 in the league. Seriously, it couldn’t have been better for us.”
This day, Dabang was off to the worst possible start. Krittwika Sinha Roy lost 0-3 to Petrissa Solja, though the score-line did not reflect how well the 186th-ranked Indian girl played.
It was left to Sharath to build on the lead, but Sathiyan was up to the challenge. The clash featuring two best male players of the country produced plenty of thrills.
This fast-paced encounter, laced with long rallies, saw Sathiyan quickly off the blocks. Though Sharath fought back briefly to move ahead 5-4, Sathiyan won the next five points to seize control. Even in the second game, Sathiyan broke away 4-6 to win seven out of the next nine points.
Down by two games, Sharath changed gears and played far more aggressively and accurately. But Sathiyan was relentless. He stayed close to the table and used the blocks effectively to open an 8-5 lead. What followed was Sharath’s best. He roared back to make it 8-8 and then won the last three points to keep Chennai 4-2 ahead in the
Sharath stayed in the arena for the mixed doubles, with Petrissa. They maintained their unbeaten run against Jon Persson and debutant Naina Persson with a convincing 3-0 victory.
Down 2-7, with two singles to go, Dabang picked up three points when the 63rd ranked, Persson blanked Anirban Ghosh, ranked a distant 1138. Thereafter, World No. 14 Benadette Szocs played to her ranking against the 137-ranked Madhurika Patkar and swept her clean in all three games to carry Dabang past the finish-line for a psychologically-important triumph.
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