Ultimate Table Tennis 2017: Marcos Freitas dazzles while Par Gerell disappoints in a tale of two captains
Dabang Smashers captain Marcos Freitas of Portugal led from the front as they edged Falcons TTC 14-13 on the fourth day of Ultimate Table Tennis League
Captain Marcos Freitas of Portugal led from the front as Dabang Smashers TTC edged Falcons TTC 14-13 on the fourth day of Ultimate Table Tennis League. Freitas swept both his matches 3-0 to gain six vital points for his team. On the other hand, Falcons captain Par Gerell had a horrendous day, first losing to the rival captain 0-3 and then going down to India’s G Sathiyan to suffer a miserable evening.
So far in the UTT, momentum has played a big role with the players who are fired up getting better returns for their efforts. The format of the league has played a key role here. The matches are only best of three games as opposed to best of seven at the International level and also there is only a 10 second gap between each point. This makes it very difficult to break the opponent’s rhythm or to think about new strategies. Hence you need to be ready from the word go. The person to start off in a low gear has a huge disadvantage as it is very difficult to make a comeback.
Freitas seemed to have learnt this quickly. He was up against the high-flying Indian left-hander Sanil Shetty in the first match of the tie. Sanil had beaten World No 31 Tiago Apolonia in his first match of UTT, so Freitas had to be careful to start off and make sure he didn't concede a huge lead. Sanil's confidence was sky high and he started off in a typically explosive fashion using his powerful forehands from the backhand side. But Freitas was prepared for this - he matched fire with fire and had a clear strategy in place, not to give enough room for Sanil to pivot and hit quick, powerful forehands.
Freitas loaded his backhand strokes with a lot of spin to ensure they land on the deep edge of the table thereby breaking Sanil's timing of the forehand. He also mixed up the placement of his strokes often starting from Sanil's forehand side and stopping is favored pivot stroke. Sanil seemed a bit out of ideas as Freitas' reverse pendulum serves and pushes, which barely made it out of the table edge, put a halt to his attacking game.
Freitas then clashed with World No 41 Par Gerell in another all-lefty duel. What was supposed to be a feisty affair turned out to be pretty much a one-sided affair as Freitas won all the three matches comfortably.
Gerell’s bad day at the office continued as he also went down in his second singles match. Local lad Sathiyan Gnaneshekaran of Dabang Smashers punched above his weight as he beat Falcons captain Gerell 2-1.
Sathiyan played a close to the table quick game as opposed to Gerell's mid-to-long distance and was also able to use his forehand to good effect taking the ball early in its trajectory and creating good angles. Born in Chennai, Sathiyan had good support in his backyard and the crowd was delighted as he went up by 8-0 in the first game to clinch it quite comfortably.
Gerell came roaring back in the second game, adding a bit more power to his strokes and trying to play the ball on the body and the backhand of Sathiyan so that he wasn’t able to use the quick forehand counter attacking strokes.
The second game went completely opposite to the first as Gerell, this time led, 7-1 and closed out the game comfortably. In the third, Gerell seemed a bit passive for the first couple of points as Sathiyan – aided by a serve error from his opponent and a couple of ordinary receives – was able to create a four-point gap going up 6-2. He used his forehand more effectively and was ready for the strokes played on his body. The fan cheers also got louder with each point that he won and he himself went wild in celebrations after winning the match.
The other heart-warming performance of the day came from Arjun Ghosh of the Falcons. He held two match points against Kou Lei of Smashers after winning the first game but was unable to kill the match as Lei held his nerve to win on the Golden Point rule. However, Ghosh’s backhand flicks and backhand-to-backhand encounters seemed to surprise Lei who struggled to play against those quick and spinning backhands. It was only in the third game that he came to terms with Ghosh’s game style and was able to sail smoothly from there on.
In the women's matches, India's Mousumi Paul, fought hard against World No 13 Wu Yang but the lack of exposure of playing against a defensive player seemed apparent as Yang won 3-0. The same was the case at the opposite end as Falcons' Sutirtha Mukherjee went down to another defensive player — Kim Song — in straight sets. Tetyana Bilenko of Smashers and Lee Ho Ching of Falcons played out an exciting match as Lee came back from a set down to win 2-1. Lee struggled to understand the various spin changes that Bilenko was imparting and looked all at sea in the first game. Loose balls were catching the edge of her racket whereas backspin balls were landing right into the net. But slowly, she started getting into the groove, reading the spins much better and from then on took control of the match.
For the Falcons, Gerell needs to get his game on track and should look to come out firing from the word go. Starting off strong is a must, something that Gerell hasn’t been able to do. He could probably take a lesson or two from the way his opposite number Freitas started both his games today. The mixed doubles pair of Sanil and Lee Ho Ching look settled for the Falcons and it is often the doubles match that plays a critical role in the final score. For the Smashers, they still seem unsure about their women’s combination and need to sort out that area of concern.
The 37-year-old Dubliner, who remains available for Test and T20 cricket, won 153 caps in the 50-over format, scoring over 3,000 runs and taking a national record 114 wickets in the format with his lively medium pace.
After being forced to shut out fans last year due to Covid-19, the tournament will begin selling tickets for the 30 August - 12 September showdown at Flushing Meadows to the public on 15 July.
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