Jon Persson: Manav Thakkar played trickier than I thought

Dabang Delhi’s Jon Persson, the World No. 63, praises his singles opponent after going down 2-1 to him in the thrilling semifinal tie against U Mumba.

Jon Presson congratulates Manav Thakkar after the men's singles match.   -  UTT

Jon Persson, the World No. 63 from Sweden, stumbled to his third singles loss in the Ultimate Table Tennis on Friday. The victor was the unheralded Manav Thakkar, the dark horse in the contest.

When there’s little to choose between two sides, small things can make a big difference. Although Persson’s loss in the penultimate clash of the day brought U Mumba back from the brink, his come-from-behind victory in the final game proved crucial as the eventual winning margin was just one game.

Leading 6-3 after three clashes, Dabang held the upper hand when Persson and Manav walked in to play. Manav, placed 93 positions below his opponent in world rankings, displayed swiftness and enterprise to clinch the first two games and nearly pocket the third. He was leading 10-6 in the last game but went down on the golden point. This final twist delighted Persson and his team-mates; he celebrated it by running to the dugout in euphoria.

This meant Krittwika Sinha Roy needed to win only one game against Sutirtha Mukherjee to steer Dabang to the final. It took a lot of effort as it boiled down to the golden point on the last game for the team to make it.

Speaking to Sportstar, Persson admitted he wasn’t aggressive enough in his approach against Manav.

“I felt that I had some good balls that I could play but I missed and I didn’t play my game," he said.

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"I thought I need to play my game, I was a little [angry with] myself also. Then they told me ‘you really need to play aggressive like you do’ and I was 9-7 up in the second set, and I also had a chance and I missed and I was more [angry with] myself and I was down 10-6 in the last game. I thought, ‘okay, this is hard to turn over to my favour to win the set’ . But in the end, two good serves and a shot that he didn’t believe I can make and I think I made it good at 10-10,” he said.

He added: “I celebrated then because this win was important for us – this point – because if Krittwika had lost to Sutirtha, [the match would have been over]. I know if she can win one set then [the match would be ours], and thankfully, she did it in the last set in the golden point, that was good.”

Reflecting on Manav’s performance, he said, “Not only did he play well, I thought I also played well. But he was trickier than I thought and I was a little bit passive. I should have been a little more aggressive against him. You need to put the ball on the table maybe three-four-five times to win the point. He is a good player.”

It left Krittwika to do her bit for the team, and she did it, in dramatic fashion. Sathiyan was seen animatedly advising her after she failed to clinch the win in the first and the second games of her clash. What was the message to her?

“We only said to her ‘you need to play,’ because when she went out for her match, we were up 7-5. All the pressure was on Sutirtha. I’m so happy that she could win because she is trying and we told her to only keep the ball on the table. She was a little bit lucky that [Sutirtha] missed it,” Persson said.

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In the league so far, Persson has just one big scalp to his name – U Mumba’s Kirill Gerassimenko. That win was scripted earlier, in the league stage. How did he rate his performance so far?

“I feel okay with my performance so far but I feel I should have maybe won some more matches. I feel I also maybe should have won but he was playing well and I missed some easy balls that I’m not used to missing. But I tried to adapt to everything here – the bounce is a little different. I’m satisfied with my first season here in UTT,” Persson said.

Dabang plays either Chennai Lions or Goa Challengers in the final on Sunday.