Sharath Kamal, just when it mattered, shifted gears and produced some vintage stuff in singles and mixed doubles. Claiming 'golden-point' that decided both these rubbers, Sharath contributed four points in Chennai Lions’ thrilling 8-7 triumph over Goa Challengers in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) league in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The battle of these teams, expected to go deep into the 18-day competition, stood decided in the final game. Madhurika lost the first two games of the final singles to Archana Kamath and that left the tie-score locked at 7-7. The Thane girl eventually clinched the final game to win the tie for her team.
"We at Chennai Lions believe that Goa is one of the most complete teams in the fray. So it feels great to take eight points off them," said Sharath after showing the way to Chennai.
The strategy of the teams to field their overseas players in search of early leads did not quite work on the day. It pretty much followed the world rankings in the first two singles and the scores were locked 3-3.
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World No. 8 Cheng I-Ching put Goa ahead by stopping the 26th-ranked Petrissa Solja 2-1, a score that Chennai’s Taigo Apolonia, ranked 52 needed to stop Alvaro Robles. Both these matches produced some thrills, but eventually the higher ranked player prevailed.
The mixed doubles saw Anthony Amalraj and I-Ching take the lead but Sharath and Petrissa were not to be denied. They clinched the next two games, the decider on golden point to put Lions ahead for the first time in the tie.
Amalraj raced away with the first game against Sharath before the latter regained his touch in the second in a match filled with long rallies and some deft touches from both players. Eventually, Sharath proved stronger after tossing away four match-points from 6-10.
Archana almost changed the script by levelling the score at 7-7 after taking two games. But Madhurika held her nerves to separate the team one last time.
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