Puneri Paltan TT, having scraped through to the semifinals, enjoyed the home support. But Chennai Lions, the defending champion, gave the home team a lesson about peaking at the right time.
Riding on an all-round show, A. Sharath Kamal’s army made short work of Puneri Paltan to win the semifinal 8-3 with four games remaining and set up an enticing final versus Goa Challengers.
Benedikt Duda, the southpaw from Germany, gave the Lions an ideal start. Not only did the Olympic medallist maintain his unbeaten record in the tournament but he also clean-swept Omar Assar to give Chennai the early advantage.
A large turnout was thrilled to have witnessed Duda’s control and the manner in which he used his push and deprived Assar, the flashy Egyptian, from using his big forehand.
Yangzi Liu then carried on the momentum by overcoming a patchy Hana Matelova in an entertaining all-overseas women’s singles tie. At 5-1, the fans were hoping for the Paltan to win at least one game to witness Sharath in action in singles.
While Manush Shah and Hana ensured the tie was stretched into the fourth rubber, Sharath unleashed his trademark backhand topspin from the back twice to the delight of the crowd.
When Sharath started his singles tie with the Lions leading 7-2, Manush had his back against the wall, with the Paltan requiring to win every single game to keep its campaign alive. While the left-handed Manush started on song, going past Sharath with his forehand, Sharath changed his strategy and adopted an aggressive approach to seal the tie in style.
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