Ultimate Table Tennis 2017: Madhurika Patkar, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran shine for Dabang Smashers
Madhurika Patkar of the Smashers overcame Fu Yu of the United’s team in a tense finish, as she became the first Indian woman to beat a foreign player in the UTT.
Indian women came to the party on the 10th day of the Ultimate Table Tennis league match between DHFL Maharashtra United and Dabang Smashers which the Smashers won 16-11.
Madhurika Patkar of the Smashers overcame Fu Yu of the United’s team in a tense finish, as she became the first Indian woman to beat a foreign player in the UTT. Ranked 37 in the World, Fu Yu was the clear favorite going into the match against World No 190 Madhurika. Fu Yu is one of the rare old-age pen-hold players who mainly uses only one side of her racket to cover the entire table. Such style of play is quite difficult as the player has to be very quick in order get into an attacking mode as she can only attack by using a forehand topspin.
Madhurika played a smart game against Fu Yu as she used quick strokes and placed the balls on the backhand extreme of her opponent, which meant that Fu Yu had very less opportunities to hit a strong forehand. From the start itself it was clear that it was going to be a tough match for Fu Yu as Madhurika came in with an attacking mindset.
Madhurika often created an offensive advantage by hitting pivot forehand topspin — a forehand stroke from the backhand corner — on Fu Yu’s backhand side. This strategy had its flip-side as it left her forehand wide open which Fu Yu did capitalise on occasionally. However, Madhurika stuck to this strategy and attacked with both flanks to keep Fu Yu in the blocking game.
Madhurika, who uses a short pimpled rubber on her backhand, also troubled Fu Yu with her explosive backhand strokes with the Portuguese player getting flustered by slight under-spin that the rubber imparts on the ball.
In the deciding game of the match, Madhurika led 10-6 but a combination of nerves and great fighting spirit by Fu Yu, meant that the match was leveled at 10-10. A golden point ensued which Madhurika won by hitting a backhand stroke, which Fu Yu was unable to return.
Earlier, it was Pooja Sahasrabudhe of the Maharashtra United who became only the third Indian women’s player to have taken a game out of a foreign player. Up against the Rio Olympics bronze medalist Kim Song-I of North Korea, Pooja was comprehensively beaten in the first two games.
Song, being a defensive player, continuously varied the spin as Pooja tried hard to stay patient in the rally and choose her attacking strokes. But she wasn’t able to create a clear strategy to counter the spin changes. Down 2-0, she came out in the final game with a changed strategy and having a better understanding of Song’s spin after two games.
Pooja tried hard to keep the ball very short on the other side of the table so that Song had to come back in quite a lot to retrieve the ball. This meant that Song was not able to impart sufficient spin on the ball and Pooja got easier balls to attack from her backhand. Pooja also tried to attack on Song’s body quite often and won the last game 11-9 to earn a vital point for the United’s.
It was an excellent day for the Indian paddlers overall as even the Indian men’s duo of Sathiyan Gnansekaran and Harmeet Desai played fantastically well against the top two ranked foreign players in the UTT.
Sathiyan created an upset of proportions as he beat the top ranked player in UTT, Wong Chun Ting of the Maharashtra United by 2-1. Sathiyan played a close to the table attacking game, which Wong had trouble dealing with. Wong was forced to move away from the table to retrieve the quick attack from Sathiyan that paved the way for wider angles for Sathiyan to exploit.
When Sathiyan was up 1-0 and 10-9, he played a smart backhand push receive to the forehand of Wong which barely made it out of the table as Wong failed to make a forehand stroke. Sathiyan became the only Indian player to have overcome three foreign players in the UTT having now beaten Wong Chun Ting, Par Gerell and Stefan Fegerl
Harmeet Desai nearly emulated the feat of his India teammate Sathiyan, as he had a match point against Marcos Freitas, the Portuguese, who is the second highest ranked player at the UTT. But unfortunately, he wasn’t able to close out the match and lost the golden point.
Freitas also won his other match of the day, against fellow Portuguese Joao Monteiro by 2-1 whereas a miserable day for Wong Chun Ting continued as he went down 1-2 to Kou Lei of the Smashers.
This was the first loss for the Maharashtra United team in the UTT as they now sit fourth in the league table having played a game less. For United, it is imperative that their star player Wong steps up his game as he has now lost three of the last four matches that he has played. The Smashers will be delighted with the form of Madhurika as her points will be crucial.
The Smashers, who had a 0-9 record in their mixed doubles games so far, finally seem to have found an answer to their doubles woes as Anthony Amalraj and Tetyanka Bilenko not only won their first game in the campaign but also went on to post a 2-1 victory.
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