UTT: Yoddhas prevails over Challengers

Shaze Challengers went down to Oilmax Stag Yoddhas on day five of the Ultimate Table Tennis tournament, despite Soumyajit Ghosh’s spectacular upset of world No. 29 Aruna Quadri.

The final tie of  the night, which was the decisive one, saw Doo Hoi Kem sweep past Olympic silver-medalist Petrissa Solja 11-9, 11-7, 11-9 to seal the tie for the Yoddhas.   -  R. Ragu

Despite Soumyajit Ghosh’s spectacular upset of world No. 29 Aruna Quadri of Nigeria, his team, Shaze Challengers, went down 12-15 to Oilmax Stag Yoddhas.

Soumyajit’s panic-free play with a slew of powerful forehands forced errors from Aruna that led to his defeat in a three-game first tie. Out of the 31 points he won, 24 were offensive winners.

Soumyajit, ranked 85th in the world, raced to a 4-0 lead in the first game after Aruna’s forehand drives kept missing the table. The latter, ranked 56 places above the Bengali, struggled to catch up and could manage only two points in the game.

The Nigerian, in the next game, after alternating points with Soumyajit till 8-8, surged to win it 11-9, thanks to the latter’s pressure-induced errors.

“Yeah, I missed a lot of easy balls towards the end of the second game,” Soumyajit admitted after the match.

He, however, regained composure after trailing 4-7 in the deciding game and, when he desperately needed it, his fiercely-struck, risk-laden forehands beat the Nigerian into submission.

For most of the second match, between Manika Batra and the top-ranked women's player of the league, Han Ying, the possibility of another upset loomed large. But Ying’s persistence and Zen monk-like patience gave her a one-point win in the decider.

This contest, of contrasting styles of play, was the most fascinating of the day. For, Manika smashed and drove, trying to barrage Ying, but the German’s response to everything was a chop – it comprised 75% of her defensive strokes.

Ying would chop, chop and chop, and when the rally was lulled with her metronomic rhythm, she, with the rapidity of a black mamba’s strike, would unleash a smash so fierce that it caught Manika unawares.

The third game, which oscillated till 10-10, was pulsating, even for the composed German that she, on a few occasions, let out a half-scream. She won the next point to finish the match, once again, with a chop.

Ying came back later in the night to beat Polina Mikhailova 11-8, 10-11, 11-8 to narrow the Yoddhas’ lead to 7-8 from 5-7 after Aruna, in his second tie, beat Croatia’s Andrej Gacina.

Gacina restored the lead for the Challengers by blanking Jubin Kumar 11-5, 11-8, 11-2 but, in the next game, Mikhailova wrested it for Yoddhas with a 11-7, 11-7, 11-8 win over Mouma Das.

Tomislav Pucar’s 11-9, 6-11, 9-11 defeat to Qatar’s Li Ping levelled the points at 12-12. The final tie of  the night, between Germany’s Petrissa Solja and Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, hence, was decisive. And Doo did it, winning all three games.

Results:-

Oilmax Stag Yoddhas beat Shaze Challengers 15-12 (Quadri Aruna lost to Soumyajit Ghosh 2-11, 11-9, 8-11; Manika Batra lost to Han Ying 11-8, 5-11, 10-11; Abhishek Yadav & Doo Hoi Kem bt Ghosh & Petrissa Solja 11-10, 11-9, 11-6; Quadri Aruna bt Andrej Gacina 10-11, 11-6, 11-3; Polina Mikhailova lost to Han Ying 8-11, 11-10, 8-11; Jubin Kumar lost to Andrej Gacina 5-11, 8-11, 2-11; Polina Mikhailova bt Mouma Das 11-7, 11-7, 11-8; Tomislav Pucar lost to Li Ping 11-9, 6-11, 9-11; Kem bt Petrissa Solja 11-9, 11-7, 11-9).