The best was saved for the last in the battle between Shaze Challengers vs Falcons TTC on the ninth day of the Ultimate Table Tennis League. Leading 13-11 going into the final match, Han Ying of Challengers had to win only one game of the three to seal the tie. But she was up against an opponent who had not lost a single game in her 12 games thus far in UTT. Wu Yang, the World No 13, had thus far been relentless in this tournament for the Falcons and it would take a special performance from Han Ying, World No 9 to get under her skin.
With both players primarily being choppers, a battle around patience and appropriate selection was on the cards. In the first game, Wu Yang got a mini lead at 3-1 but from then on it was Han Ying who showed ultimate self-control, which meant Wu Yang had to be the aggressor.
A slew of attacking errors saw Han Ying take a 8-3 lead which turned to a 10-6 lead. With four match points to convert, Han Ying looked set to seal the tie for the Challengers. But such has been the grit and mental toughness of Wu Yang that she pounced back converting all her attacking strokes to level it at 10-10. At the golden point however she misread the ball and became a touch impatient to attack, as she lofted a lose ball wide. The unbeaten streak of Wu Yang finally came to an end.
Game two started on a pretty similar note as both defenders put in rallies after rallies of chops mixing their attack occasionally. Han Ying pushed and pushed as she was determined to let Wu Yang attack first. In the second game, however, there was a reversal of fortunes as Wu Yang ran off to a 10-6 lead. She changed her game strategy and imparted more side spin on the ball to get better attacking opportunities.
Repeating the first game storyline, though, it was Han Ying who came back strongly this time to square it off at 10-10. A similar point to the game one golden point ensued and Wu Yang hit another ball long to give a 2-0 lead to Han Ying. The third game was slightly different than the previous two, as Han Ying got slightly more aggressive. But this strategy seemed to have backfired a bit as Wu Yang got a 5-2 lead. Switching back to the defense game she clawed her way back.
Astonishingly, even the final game went to the golden point. This was the first time in the entire tournament that all three games had gone to the golden point. Wu Yang seemed to have learnt her lesson and played with a lot more patience this time around. Alas for her Han Ying had reached another level of patience in defense as she played out the longest rally of the tie to force an attacking error of Wu Yang. This was by far the closest and the most engrossing match of UTT till now.
Both the women had convincingly won their games prior to the encounter with Wu Yang beating Mouma Das and Han Ying defeating P Das both in straight sets. Another first in the tournament was the defeat of the Falcons mixed doubles pair of Sanil Shetty and Lee Ho Ching at the hands of Soumyajit Ghosh and Petrissa Solja.
This tie was also one of the rare occasions in UTT in which no Indian player beat a foreign player in the tie. Li Ping beat Shetty quite comfortably in the first match of the tie. Li Ping used his wrists subtly to change the placement of the balls at the last moment, which kept Shetty guessing. Due to this, he was not able to use his forehand top spins to great effect as Li Ping played short and long as well as on the body or wide. He also mixed his receives using forehand pushes or backhand flicks; this restricted Shetty’s game severely and Li Ping was able to get on top.
Solja and Lee Ho Ching played out an entertaining and attacking game as Solja won 2-1. 10-6 was a popular score to come back from this day as Solja also saved four game points in the first but lost on golden point when a near the table rally in which Lee got back a wide forehand ball followed by a ball on her body to setup a forehand attack on Solja’s body to win the point. From there on, Solja dominated, playing wide to wide and especially creating good angles from her forehand strokes. A slight difference in power in the strokes was apparent, as Solja was able to beat her opponent on occasions as opposed to Lee, who relied on ball placement and speed changes to win the point.
With this win, the Challengers have now climbed to second position in the league table. Their German women’s pair of Solja and Han Ying is doing a fabulous job for the team. The one area they need to work is in the Indian women’s player. Mouma is an experienced campaigner for India and needs to step up her game to challenge her foreign opponents and get a point or two for her team. For the Falcons it was a step down after their mauling of Yoddhas. They, however still maintain their numero uno status in the League table.
Updated Date: Jul 22, 2017 13:33:41 IST