Kolkata: Indian stars Manika Batra and Manav Thakkar recorded thrilling victories over higher-ranked rivals, providing an exciting start to the Kolkata leg of CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis.
However, it was Manika's team, Dabang Smashers TTC who held sway by recording a 15-6 victory over Empowerji Challengers and became the first time to seal a semi-final spot.
Smashers ended the league phase with 63 points while Challengers had to settle with 42 points.
Manika returned to her winning ways with a fighting 2-1 (7-11, 11-9, 11-10) victory over World No 20 Lee Ho Ching to help Dabang Smashers gain an early lead against Empowerji Challengers.
But teen sensation Thakkar shocked World No 27 Yoshida Masaki 2-1 (11-10, 5-11, 11-9) to help Challengers level the scores 3-3 after two matches.
The poster girl of Indian table tennis, ranked World No 80, lost the first game 7-11 but came back in the second 11-9, using her forehand with telling effect. In the decider, the 23-year-old Indian was trailing 7-10 but she claimed four points on the trot to turn the tables on her Hong Kong rival.
The 18-year-old Thakkar matched his Japanese opponent in long rallies to eke out an 11-10 win in the first game. But Masaki bounced back in the second to win 11-5. In the third, Thakkar, ranked 216 places below Masaki, upped the ante and held his nerve to clinch the game (11-9) and match.
It has been a sensational run this season for Manika, who claimed World No 18 Sofia Polcanova of Warriors TTC in her first match before upsetting Falcons' Matilda Ekholm (World No 30) and then RP-SG Mavericks' Sabine Winter (World No 60).
Updated Date: Jun 26, 2018 23:52:04 IST