Falcons TTC put in a high-flying performance in their last league tie against the DHFL Maharashra United team, winning by a huge margin of 17-10. It was the second-biggest win in the Ultimate Table Tennis legaue with the Falcons also holding the record for the biggest win when they beat the Oilmax-Stag Yoddhas by 22-5.
The third leg matches of the UTT are being held at the NSCI venue in Worli, Mumbai and local hotshot Sanil Shetty of the Falcons put in a stupendous exhibition of power and agility as he beat World No 48 Joao Monteiro of the United’s. Sanil displayed a ruthless attacking game which proved too difficult for Monteiro. Sanil hit powerful forehand strokes from all parts of the table, often bending his back to play a ball played on his body.
Sanil's short ball receiving was also impeccable, which enabled him to initiate the attack. He varied this with the occasional long push surprising Moniteiro. Sanil won the match in straight games.
The other star performer of the day for the Falcons was Sutirtha Mukherjee. Sutirtha beat the World No 37 Fu Yu by a scoreline of 2-1. Inspired by Manika Batra and Madhurika Patkar, Sutirtha became the third woman to beat a foreign player at the Ultimate Table Tennis league. It was a free flowing game with lot of rallies.
Sutirtha blocked really well and placed the ball to all parts of the table. She would often start the rally from the extreme forehand of Fu Yu, where she was uncomfortable. She would then either play the ball to the extreme backhand or into the body of Fu Yu. Her opponent also made a couple of unforced errors while trying to attack. Although Sutirtha lost the first game, her strategies were very strong and they paid dividend in the next two games as she won the match by 2-1.
But the upset of the day belonged to Liu Jia of the Maharashtra United team. She was up against Wu Yang, who currently holds the honor of being the Ultimate One — the player with the most points in UTT. The 22nd-ranked Liu Jia overcame Wu Yang, who is ranked 13th, by a score of 2-1. Liu Jia played a patient game against the chopper Wu Yang. She mixed the amount of spin on her top spins as Wu Yang gave away a couple of points on defence when she was not able to read the spin on her opponents strokes.
Liu Jia won the first game on the golden point. In the second game, Wu Yang started attacking a bit more so that Liu Jia had to push with perfection and attack even more. This seemed to have worked as Liu Jia made errors and lost the second game. In the third game, Liu Jia faced problems against the forehand side spin push of Wu Yang. She popped up the returns on those balls as Wu Yang was able to hit on it.
Wu Yang increased her attacking percentage to take a 5-3 lead. At that point, Liu Jia upped the tempo and on the next ball her attack was forceful and into the body of Wu Yang. This was followed by a risky long serve that made it 5-5. She began reading her forehand side spin stroke and was able to keep it low. Liu Jia was very brave and in the tense moments used her backhand open to win a point at 9-9 and finished the match by hitting good top spins.
Wu Yang came back strong in her second match of the tie as she comfortably dispatched off India’s Kritwika Sinha Roy in straight sets. Even in the men’s singles, India’s Harmeet Desai did not live up to the mark as he couldn’t take off a single game against England’s Liam Pitchford.
The only ray of hope for Maharashtra United was actually the way in which Wong Chun Ting played in the last game of his match against Liam Pitchford. Wong, the best player at the UTT by world rankings, has failed to impress so far losing to lower-ranked players. Such was his drop in form that in this tie the United team let captain Joao Monteiro play two matches more than Wong, who played a single match.
With the score even at 1-1 and the United team already having lost the tie, Wong played a fabulous third game, attacking from both flanks and effectively using his backhand flicks and short pushes. For the first time in the entire tournament, Wonh had the aura associated with a top-class table tennis player.
The Falcons are way ahead of the pack in terms of points won and will surely qualify as the top team in the League. Maharashtra United are in a tricky situation as they have to hope that the RP-SG Mavericks don’t put in a fabulous performance. The Mavericks will need to beat the Shaze Challengers in the last league match of the UTT and that too by a big enough margin so as to climb above the United team.
Even if they do qualify for the semi-final playoffs, Maharashtra United will need to address several issues. They still seem to be indecisive about who should play the women’s singles – Pooja or Krittwika. The form of Fu Yu and Harmeet Desai is also a cause for concern as both players have now lost heavily in the last two ties. The four semi-finalists will be decided based on the result between the RP-SG Mavericsk and Shaze Challengers.
Updated Date: Jul 27, 2017 16:57:58 IST