The entire UTT League is being played in Delhi this season. However, RPSG Mavericks Kolkata have certainly emerged as the crowd favourites. On Thursday, in their match against U Mumba, their frontline singles players Matilda Ekholm and Benedikt Duda were nicknamed ‘Matty’ and ‘Duda’ respectively by the overwhelmingly young crowd.
The compact setting made it feel like a house-full stadium where chants of ‘Matty’ and ‘Duda’ reverberated through the stands as the rallies gained heat.
The Mavericks certainly benefited from the same. Matilda took great pleasure in moving away from the table and letting her opponent Doo Hoi Kem smash it out. Her dogged defence had her lobbing the ball high in the air, back on the table.
Doo, at this point, had to jump and smash. She did too but sent the ball wide off the table. Over the course of the first two games, Matilda’s forehand had warmed up and she unleashed a barrage of shots, all to Doo’s backhand, winning the match 2-1.
Duda played his game away from the table, his forehand topspin leaving his U Mumba opponent Kirill Gerassimenko falling to his haunches. Kirill was forced to bend his back when wanting to take Duda’s shots on his forehand.
That was how their most engaging rallies played out, shot for shot away from the table, all on the forehand, angling crosscourt, both players like crouching tigers, waiting to exult with arms aloft. Duda made the kill by not letting his backhand get in the way and sending the ball down both flanks. He too won his match 2-1.
However, that was until U Mumba found a saviour in Manav Thakkar who rallied from behind to first level the scores of the tie, and then, gain a healthy 7-5 lead in the tie for his team.
Like the actor with an impeccable screen presence, Manav commanded the attention of the spectators during the mixed doubles tie.
He cut a distinctly emotive figure. In jubilation, he’d roar to the players’ dugout which cheered him on. In despair, he was bent over the table after failing to send the ball over the net. While playing a regular shot, he had pure and unflinching aggression painted across his face. Perhaps, he had sensed the magnanimity of the occasion and the opportunity it presented for him.
U Mumba were trailing 2-4 in the tie before the mixed doubles match got underway. The pair of Manav Thakkar and Doo Hoi Kem had their task cut out against the pair of Sanil Shetty and Matilda Ekholm. They were trailing 7-10 in the first game.
That was when it became Manav’s show as he bundled up points with his backhanded returns negating the opponent’s advantage on serve. They won the game on golden point and went on to win that match 3-0 as Manav played near flawless. The tie score was 5-4 then for U Mumba before the reverse men’s singles got underway.
Thereon, Manav Thakkar played much of the same against Sanil Shetty, winning the first two games before losing the third on golden point. He won that reverse singles match 2-1 and the tie score now read 7-5 for U Mumba.
In the post-match presser, Manav admitted to wilting under pressure and finding golden points challenging. “I haven’t won a single golden point out of four occasions in singles this season,” he sighed. “It’s something that I have to work on, to not lose my lead and let it get to a golden point as that can prove costly for my team.”
He didn’t have to worry for too long though. The Mavericks’ Manika Batra had a daunting task of winning her reverse women’s singles 3-0 to win the tie for her team. However, her poor form continued as she looked out of sorts against Sutirtha Mukherjee.
On two occasions, Manika lost the ball in flight, her forehands only swishing air. On others, she rushed into her shots. Still others, she was tied to her backhand with no opportunity to switch to the forehand for an attack. Manika did win the last game 11-1 but lost her match 1-2 with the Mavericks losing the tie 6-9 and staring at elimination.
U Mumba TT bt RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata 9-6
Women’s Singles: Doo Hoi Kem lost to Matilda Ekholm 1-2 (5-11, 11-3, 8-11)
Men’s Singles: Kirill Gerassimenko lost to Benedikt Duda 1-2 (10-11, 11-10, 7-11)
Mixed Doubles: Manav Thakkar/ Doo Hoi Kem bt Sanil Shetty/ Matilda Ekholm 3-0 (11-10, 11-6, 11-7)
Men’s Singles: Manav Thakkar bt Sanil Shetty 2-1 (11-8, 11-9, 10-11)
Women’s Singles: Sutirtha Mukherjee bt Manika Batra 2-1 (11-7, 11-7, 1-11)
Updated Date: Aug 02, 2019 09:15:28 IST