Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Star studded U Mumba led by Manav Thakkar produced a superb all -round display to tame Puneri Paltan Table Tennis 9-6 to climb to the top of the point table in the Ultimate Table Tennis here on Saturday.
Manav Thakkar and Sutirtha Mukherjee along with foreign stars, Kirill Gerassimenko (Kazakhstan) and Doo Hoi Kem (Hong Kong), comprehensively won their singles matches to leave Paltan gasping. They suffered their only defeat in the Mixed Doubles, with Manav- Hoi Kem unable to get the better of Chih-Yuan-Ayhika.
Sutirtha set the trend for the day, wiping out Ayhika Mukherjee’s challenge (11-7, 6-11, 11-5) with her aggressive approach and putting U Mumba ahead. In the battle of Mukherjees, she won the first set with ease before Ayhika launched a comeback and levelled the scores in the second. In the deciding set, Sutirtha relied on speed and her jabs to force Ayhika into a series of errors.
Manav then consolidated U Mumba’s lead, taking the challenge past his more experienced opponent Harmeet Desai 2-1 in the Men’s Singles. Manav, placed 156th in world rankings, did not let Harmeet settle down and raced to a 5-1 lead in the opening set, which he sealed 11-6.
The 19-year-old took the same aggressive line, picked up crucial points with his powerful smashes. His returns were quick, anticipation spot on and he displayed a sharp game to take the second too 11-8. Harmeet began to unnerve Manav in the third and an early lead 6-2 was enough to fetch him one point for Paltan.
In the crucial Mixed Doubles, Taiwan’s Chuang Chih-Yuan protected Ayhika Mukherjee smartly to pull Paltan back into the contest. The U Mumba paired streaked ahead 5-1 before Manav-Hoi Kem, showed signs of life.
But Chih-Yuan proved to be too good, creating nice angles and working on his backhand flicks to clinch the first set 11-5. He was on song in the second too, wrapping it up 11-6. They couldn’t, however, complete the kill, allowing U Mumba to take another crucial tie point.
Chih-Yuan suffered a brief hiccup in the reverse Men’s Singles though, losing the first set to Kirill Gerassimenko 7-11. He came back charged in the second though, racing away to a 6-0 lead.
The third set, however, didn’t go his way, with Paltan’s Kirill defending amazingly well and retrieving everything that Chih-Yuan threw at him. It proved to be a fascinating tussle, replete with long rallies and powerful smashes. In the end, though, Kirill prevailed to set the stage for World No. 11 Hoi Kem. She wrapped up the tie in the first set itself.
U Mumba TT bt Puneri Paltan Table Tennis 9-6
Women’s Singles: Sutirtha Mukherjee bt Ayhika Mukherjee 2-1 (11-7, 6-11, 11-5)
Men’s Singles: Manav Thakkar bt Harmeet Desai 2-1 (11-6, 11-8, 8-11)
Mixed Doubles: Manav Thakkar/ Doo Hoi Kem lost to Chuang Chih-Yuan/ Ayhika Mukherjee 1-2 (5-11, 6-11, 11-6 )
Men’s Singles: Kirill Gerassimenko bt Chuang Chih-Yuan 2-1 (11-7, 6-11, 11-8)
Women’s Singles: Doo Hoi Kem bt Sabine Winter 2-1 (11-5, 10-11, 11-3 )