The RP-SG Mavericks and Dabang Smashers TTC are tied neck-and-neck at the top of the table after the end of the second leg of the Ultimate Table Tennis League which was held in Delhi from 20 to 26 June. Both teams are on 48 points, but the Mavericks have swapped positions with the Smashers as they deservedly hold the top position after having won all their matches in the league stage so far.
The second leg of UTT began on an exciting note with these two teams fighting out each other in the first match of the leg. The battle began on a familiar note for the Smashers with Manika Batra continuing her top form to make it a hat-trick of 2-1 victories — defeating Sabine Winter of the Mavericks — to give the Smashers a solid start.
But from then on the Mavericks had the upper-hand against their opponents as India’s Harmeet Desai and Mouma Das led the way with impressive victories over their foreign opponents. After having preferred to play Ayhika Mukherjee in the first two matches of the league the Mavericks shifted to veteran paddler Mouma for the third match. She vindicated her selection with a win over 18-year-old Adriana Diaz of the Smashers. The Indian players — Harmeet, Ayhika and Mouma — are doing a fabulous job for the Mavericks as between them they have now won five out of the ten singles matches played so far.
Harmeet has been the star Indian player of the second leg as he first beat Yoshida Masaki of Smashers and then beat Aruna Quadri of Warriors TTC in the last match of the Delhi leg.
The last match was easily the closest tie of this leg — the Mavericks pipped Warriors by 11-10, with Winter winning the last two games over Pooja Sahasrabudhe as the Mavericks trailed 10-9. There was some relief for the Warriors as Sharath Kamal notched up his first win which was also the first match won by an Indian player for the Warriors in this year’s UTT so far. The Warriors are placed second from the bottom as none of their Indian or foreign players has been able to put in a consistent performance in this year’s UTT. They are only one point ahead of Empowerji Challengers, who are bottom of the league table with 36 points.
Although at the bottom, the Challengers have however put in a better performance in the second leg after having accumulated only 15 points at the end of the first. The return to form of their star player — Simon Gauzy — the highest ranked player in this year’s UTT has given them a boost. He first beat India’s Anthony Amalraj of the Maharashtra United 2-1 and then swept aside Sanil Shetty of the Falcons TTC 3-0 to keep the qualifications hopes alive for the Challengers.
The 3-0 loss of Sanil was probably the only blemish for the Falcons TTC in this leg as they were easily the best team in the second leg. They won both their ties with emphatic wins over Warriors and the Challengers by an identical 15-6 scoreline. After a disappointing performance against Smashers where they lost 4-17, Falcons players needed to make a statement. Their foreign contingent responded with brilliance as their players — Matilda Ekholm, Liam Pitchford, Bernadette Szocs and Alvaro Robles — won all the matches amongst them. Between them, they have a positive score of 20-4 with Ekholm winning all her six games while Szocs won eight and lost just the one.
The Falcons now sit third in the table with 45 points followed by Maharashtra United on 38 points in the fourth place. Maharashtra United defeated the Dabang Smashers in their fourth tie as Elizabeta Samara became the first player to defeat Batra this season. The Maharashtra United will now take on the Warriors TTC in their last match of the league stage with the winner of the two likely to grab the fourth qualification spot.
The RP-SG Mavericks, Dabang Smashers and the Falcons TTC look set to grab their places in the knockout stage of the tournament as they hold a sizeable lead over the bottom half of the table. The fight will be between Maharashtra United, Warriors TTC and Challengers to grab the fourth spot. The Challengers will play against the Dabang Smashers in the first tie of the third leg on 26th June followed by Maharashtra United and Warriors TTC while the Falcons TTC will take on RP-SG Mavericks in the last tie before the knockout stages.
The third leg of the Ultimate Table Tennis will be held in Kolkata from 26 June to 1 July with the semi-finals and finals to be held on the last three days of the tournament.
Updated Date: Jun 26, 2018 15:32:13 IST