Ultimate Table Tennis 2017: Consistent Han Ying helps Shaze Challengers overcome Sharath Kamal's heroics
Han Ying was at her consistent best again. The world no nine had not lost a single match leading up to the tie and continued the trend as Archana Kamath of India and her teammate Sofia Polcanova failed to put her under pressure.
In the last League match of the Ultimate Table Tennis League, the Shaze Challengers came from behind to beat RP-SG Mavericks 15-12. The Mavericks needed 17 points from the tie to qualify for the semi-finals ahead of the Maharashtra United. They were on course for causing an upset of proportions when they led 10-5 , having won all the first five matches by 2-1. They needed seven points from the last 12 games, but the Challengers, led by the unbeaten Han Ying and India’s Soumyajit Ghosh killed all hopes for the Mavericks winning ten of the last 12 points.
The comeback started when Soumyajit Ghosh got the better of the opposition captain Stefan Fegerl. Fegerl has struggled throughout in the tournament, losing to several lower ranked players. On Thursday, he had got off to a good start beating Andrej Gacina in his first match. Against Ghosh, for long periods, he looked in control of the match. He won the first game and had two match points in the second at 10-8. But Ghosh bounced back and got a slightly lucky Golden Point to take it to the decider.
Ghosh played a very near-the-table attacking game while pushing Fegerl away from the table. Ghosh pivoted quite a lot to get his forehand topspins in play and hold Fegerl on his blocking game. Fegerl was passive at times as he seemed to go away from the table a tad too quickly. Ghosh played intelligently on the short balls mixing up his strokes with flicks and short pushes. He won the third game to win the match for the Challengers – their first of the evening.
That set the tone for the Challengers and thereafter, it was a one-way traffic as the Challengers won the last three matches with relative ease. Han Ying and Li Ping posted comfortable victories dropping only 1 game between them to coast to victory. Han Ying was at her consistent best again. The world no nine had not lost a single match leading up to the tie and continued the trend as Archana Kamath of India and her teammate Sofia Polcanova failed to put her under pressure. Kamath, the 17-year-old prodigy, played well in bits, but there was a clear difference in the quality of the players as Ying was rarely troubled. Polcanova did manage to win her last game in the match but by then the tie and the hopes of the Mavericks were well and truly over.
Earlier, on a day when the Mavericks had to win as many points as possible to get through to the top four , Sharath Kamal led from the front as he beat rival captain Gacina by 2-1. He played some stunning forehand winners but also displayed great control from his backhand side.
Mouma Das of the Challengers gave a tough fight to Sabina Winter – the German playing for the Mavericks. Sabina Winter looked in control in the first match. Mouma employed the strategy of getting Winter to play her backhand and whenever possible use her hard smash to win the points. But this wasn’t enough to win a game. From the second game onwards, the Indian veteran started soft blocking from her short pimpled rubber. This tactic caused a whole lot of problems for Winter. A soft block from the slow pimpled rubber gives back some of the spin imparted by the opponent and Winter looked baffled by this. Mouma mixed this up with the occasional hard smash. She came very close in the second game but lost 9-11. But she built on this in the next game and won a point for the Challengers.
The Challengers surprisingly fielded a new pairing for their mixed doubles with Li Ping and Mouma Das stepping in for the first time in this league. So far in the UTT, it has been Ghosh and Petrissa Solja who have turned up. They were up against Sharath Kamal and Polcanova. The Li-Mouma pair looked completely out of sorts in the first two games. They started gelling together only at the end of the second game and went on to win the third.
The result meant that Maverics and Yoddhas were knocked out of the league. The Falcons TTC, Dabang Smashers, Shaze Challengers and Maharashtra United are the four teams who will fight it out in the semis. The Mavericks were let down throughout the tournament by their Men’s foregin players. Fegerl and Aplonia will both be disappointed by their performances. Sharath had a great run in the singles and doubles getting over stronger and much higher ranked opponents. The Challengers would do better to switch back to the mixed doubles pair of Ghosh and Solja who seems to make a much better pair than Mouma and Li.
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