On a day that belonged to overseas southpaws, defending champion Falcons T.T.C. survived a scare from Maharashtra United in the inaugural clash of the second edition of Ultimate Table Tennis on Thursday.
Thanks to the tremendous support it enjoyed from the home fans at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex, Maharashtra United hoped for a miracle when it led 10-8 on the basis of game scores going into the decider.
But in the last match of the night, left-hander, World No. 30, Matilda Ekholm beat Madhurika Patkar to ensure the champion outfit opened its campaign with an 11-10 win.
The Swede was so fluent with her serve and forehand top-spin that she hardly broke a sweat against a hapless Patkar. Ekholm, however, wasn't the lone lefty to succeed for Falcons.
Sanil Shetty, the Indian leftie, combined with Bernadette Szocs to overpower Elizabeth Samara and A. Amalraj in the mixed doubles match, getting Falcons within touching distance of the United.
Alvaro Robles then trumped Joao Monteiro in an all-left-handers' clash to level the score at six games apiece. Despite Shetty losing all three games to favourite Kristian Karlsson in the other all-southpaw battle, Ekholm ensured that Falcons avoided an upset.
The contest of the day turned out to be the second one between in-form Liam Pitchford and seasoned Anthony Amalraj. The Indian, having failed to notch up a win, started on a stupendous note. Amal's powerful forehand winners left Pitchford stunned as the United star took the opening game.
Despite Pitchford making a strong comeback, Amalraj raced to a 7-1 lead within touching distance of what would have been the biggest win of his career.
However, Pitchford then showed his class by targetting Amal's forehand corner, in the process ensuring two points for his team.
In the end, those points proved to be vital for the Falcons.
Falcons T.T.C. bt Maharashtra United 11-10 [Sutirtha Mukherjee lost to Lily Zhang 0-3 (10-11, 8-11, 5-11); Liam Pitchford bt Anthony Amalraj 2-1 (5-11, 11-8, 11-9); Bernadette Szocs & Sanil Shetty bt Elizabeta Samara & A. Amalraj 2-1 (11-9, 8-11, 11-6); Alvaro Robles bt Joao Monteiro 2-1 (8-11, 11-3, 11-9); Bernadette Szocs bt Elizabeta Samara 2-1 (11-8, 6-11, 11-6); Sanil Shetty lost to Kristian Karlsson 0-3 (4-11, 3-11, 8-11); Matilda Ekholm bt Madhurika Patkar 3-0 (11-5, 11-7, 11-5).]
Friday's fixtures: Empowerji Challengers vs RP-SG Mavericks