No team had been able to defend its Ultimate Table Tennis title in the first seasons. The previous two seasons had witnessed the defending champion ending up as the runners-up. The trend continued on Sunday as Goa Challengers hung on in a cliffhanger of a final against Chennai Lions for its maiden UTT triumph.
Alvaro Robles’ clean sweep against legendary A. Sharath Kamal put the Goa outfit on the cusp of victory in front of 2200-plus fans that cheered vociferously at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex. At 7-5, T. Reeth Rishya - Goa Challengers’ designated finisher all through the season - had to win a solitary game against an ailing Sutirtha Mukherjee.
The Olympian Sutirtha, who had been down with a cold, then brought Chennai Lions back by holding fort in the opening game. In the second, Reeth backed her consistent backhand topspins to open up a 9-5 gap before enjoying three championship points at 10-7. Then came a turnaround with Sutirtha hanging on and forcing errors off Reeth’s blade.
At 10-10, Reeth appeared to be confused and missed her backhand sidespin service to enforce the deciding 15th game of the rubber.
Despite succumbing under pressure in the second, Reeth made a remarkable comeback and backed her aggressive game to finally get the much-needed point by winning the game and kickstart a prolonged celebration.
Thanks to its maiden title in its second season, Goa Challengers earned a prize purse of Rs. 75,00,000 and a glittering trophy while Chennai Lions had to be content with Rs. 50,00,000. The two losing semifinals - Puneri Paltan TT and Dabang Delhi TTC - won Rs. 25,00,000.
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