UTT: Warriors gets the better of Empowerji Challengers

A. Sharath Kamal and Aruna Quadri, backed by the stylish Sofia Polcanova and Chih Yuan Chuang, helped Warriors T.T.C. resurrect its CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis campaign with a comfortable 14-7 win against the Empowerji Challengers.

A. Sharath Kamal sealed the tie for Warriors despite losing the match against Portugal's Tiago Apolonia.   -  Vivek Bendre

For a decade now, A. Sharath Kamal and Aruna Quadri have been waging a virtually lone battle on the world table tennis stage for India and Nigeria, respectively. The duo, backed by the stylish Sofia Polcanova and Chih Yuan Chuang, helped Warriors T.T.C. resurrect its CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis campaign with a comfortable 14-7 win against the Empowerji Challengers.

The Warriors combined superbly as a unit to reverse the margin of the loss against Dabang Smashers T.T.C, who succumbed in its season-opener. As a result, at the end of the first leg of the tournament, before the action moves to the national capital, Warriors rose to the third position in the points table. The Challengers continued to be in the bottom two, with a tally of 15 points.

The seasoned Quadri was up against promising Indian youngster Manav Thakkar. The Nigerian showed all his experience by waging an all-out aggressive battle against the bespectacled Thakkar, who prefers to get into rallies. With Quadri either passing the ball through Thakkar or hitting it, he dominated all the three games, hitting winners at will to win all three games and negate the deficit caused by Sreeja Akula's 3-0 defeat to Lee Ho Ching in the tie-opener.

Sharath, then, took the centre-stage with left-hander Sofia Polcanova and the duo staved off a tough challenge posed by Arjun Ghosh and Lee Ho Ching to help Warriors surge ahead. Chuang, the World No. 15, then aided Warriors to open a wide gap with a clean sweep against Simon Gauzy, the World No. 12, in a match that lived up to its billing. Both the players displayed their ability to the fullest, which at times made the spectators' overtly excited, even disturbing players at times.

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Polcanova, ranked No. 18, the won the all-European battle in another gripping contest before Sharath sealed the tie for Warriors despite losing the match against Portugal's Tiago Apolonia. The duo was involved in a memorable 24-point rally, incidentally the last point of the match, with Sharath finally breaking through Apolonia's lobbing skills to pocket the third game. Experienced Hana Matelova then gave three vital points by making short work of local girl Divya Deshpande to end the tie on a high for Warriors.

Scores

Warriors T.T.C. bt Empowerji Challengers 14-7 (Sreeja Akula lost to Lee Ho Ching 0-3 (7-11, 5-11, 6-11); Aruna Quadri bt Manav Thakkar 3-0 (11-8, 11-7, 11-3); A. Sharath Kamal & Sofia Polcanova bt Arjun Ghosh & Lee Ho Ching 2-1 (6-11, 11-10, 11-8); Chih Yuan Chuang bt Simon Gauzy 3-0 (11-7, 11-6, 11-8); Sofia Polcanova bt Georgina Pota 2-1 (10-11, 11-4, 11-2); A. Sharath Kamal lost to Tiago Apolonia 1-2 (5-11, 6-11, 11-6); Hana Matelova bt Divya Deshpande 11-8, 11-7, 11-9)].

Standings: Dabang Smashers T.T.C. 31 points; RP-SG Mavericks 24; Warriors T.T.C. 15; Maharashtra United 20; Falcons T.T.C. 15; Empowerji Challengers 15.