UTT 2019: Manav Thakkar's tenacity, Kirill Gerassimenko's artistry stand out as U Mumba rout Goa Challengers 11-4
Manav Thakkar won 5 of his side's 11 points against Goa Challengers by winning the men's singles and mixed doubles matches for U Mumba.
Manav Thakkar won his men's singles match against Anthony Amalraj 2-1 before winning 3-0 in the mixed doubles with Doo Hoi Kem
Earlier, U Mumba had started off proceedings with Doo Hoi Kem winning 3-0 against Goa's Archana Kamath in the opening match
Goa's Alvaro Robles won the only match for his side in the tie by beating Kirill Gerassimenko 2-1
A sportsperson can achieve great things when he’s under no pressure. Ask Manav Thakkar and he would certainly reply in the affirmative. “After Doo won the first match 3-0, there was no pressure on me and I just went for my shots,” said Manav in the post-match presser after he had helped his side U Mumba to wins in the men’s singles and mixed doubles matches against Goa Challengers on Monday.
“I knew that there isn’t much wiggle room against Anthony because he’s so fast so I just hit hard at the first opportunity which came my way.”
Manav was quick to get off the blocks in his men’s singles match against Goa’s Anthony Amalraj. In fact, Anthony, who’s known for being one of the fastest players in the Ultimate Table Tennis League (UTT), seemed to have been rushed into swinging wildly on numerous occasions by Manav who took a 5-1 lead in the first game.
Every shot that Anthony missed felt like Déjà vu. Each time, he would be pushed into the corner by a penetrating forehand from Manav, who was standing very close to the table. Anthony would then aim to play the backhand drive but miss by some distance.
After Manav had won the first game 11-7, Anthony found his footing in the second by winning the longer rallies. The 19-year-old Manav stood no chance when pushed way behind the table by the rampaging 33-year-old veteran who swatted the ball down both flanks with ease.
Manav lost the second game 5-11 but held on for a morale-boosting victory in the tightly contested third 11-9, winning his match 2-1. U Mumba at this point were leading 5-1 in the tie but Manav wasn’t finished yet.
He then combined with world number 12 Doo Hoi Kem, who had won the first match of the tie 3-0 against Archana Kamath, for the mixed doubles match against the pair of Alvaro Robles and Archana Kamath. The match progressed at a brisk pace and U Mumba were looking well on their way to thrash the Goa Challengers with Manav emerging as the chief architect.
Manav and Doo looked in perfect sync, their movements around each other timed to the second. On the other hand, Alvaro was taking an undue amount of time in getting his tall frame out of the way, not allowing Archana to play her shot. Thrice his serve was returned for a winner by Manav who had lunged forward, playing an angled crosscourt return evading Archana. U Mumba won the mixed doubles match 3-0.
Manav was his usual animated self during the course of his two matches. While he’d urge himself on with a loud shout after every point he won against Anthony Amalraj, in the mixed doubles, he even took to kneeling completely under the table, hidden from his opponents as he strategised his serve with his partner.
During the course of those enthralling two matches played by Manav, the crowd went from cheering for Goa to chanting “Adi-Manav”, a fitting tribute to the 19-year-old’s seemingly invincible game on display.
U Mumba had now won the first three matches of the tie losing just one game and were leading 8-1. The remaining two matches, while having no bearing on the tie already been won by U Mumba, produced some scintillating table tennis.
The reverse men’s singles had U Mumba’s Kirill Gerassimenko face Goa Challengers’ Alvaro Robles. Kirill, who hails from Kazakhstan but has played a lot of his table tennis in Europe, engaged in a typical European slug-fest with Alvaro.
Both players took no time in moving away from the table, crouching while playing their forehand topspin and moving stealthily across in search of a gap for the winner. It felt like a tennis match with only the overhead serve missing now.
With his team having already pocketed the tie, the 22-year-old Kirill played with elan, experimenting with his serves and pulling out trick shots, one of them being a slick forehand chop which sent the ball gliding like a Frisbee, and kept the rally going.
Kirill's artistry was painting the crowd in the U Mumba orange. There was an air of anticipation each time he’d move away from the table, over what he would pull next. Eventually, the crowd got what they were eagerly waiting for, the rally of the day where both Kirill and Alvaro played heavily angled returns – inches shy off the match referees’ boxes – before the U Mumba player sent one wide.
Alvaro won the match 2-1, some consolation in an otherwise abject 4-11 surrender of his team to table-toppers U Mumba who booked their spot in the semi-finals.
U Mumba TT bt Goa Challengers: 11-4
1) Women’s singles: Doo Hoi Kem bt Archana Kamath 3-0 (11-8, 11-10, 11-8 )
2) Men's Singles: Manav Thakkar bt Amalraj Anthony 2-1 (11-7, 5-11, 11-9 )
3) Mixed Doubles: Manav Thakkar/ Doo Hoi Kem bt Alvaro Robles/ Archana Kamath 3-0 (11-7, 11-10, 11-8 )
4) Men's Singles: Kirill Gerassimenko lost to Alvaro Robles 1-2 (11-10, 7-11, 7-11 )
5) Women’s Singles: Sutirtha Mukherjee bt Cheng-I-Ching 2-1 (11-6, 11-9, 6-11 )
The men's and women's singles event of the 33rd edition of the event, held in a direct knockout format for the first time, has the top 16 Asian players.
World number 44 Manika beat Chen, ranked 23rd in the ITTF chart, 6-11 11-6 11-5 11-7 8-11 9-11 11-9 in a hard-fought women’s singles quarterfinals.