Goa Challengers asserted its supremacy over table-topper Dabang Delhi TTC in a nail-biting semifinal to book a place in the Ultimate Table Tennis Season Four final on Friday.
Riding on an all-round effort, Goa — trailing 4-6 at one stage — rode high on Alvaro Robles and T. Reeth Rishya’s superlative efforts to edge past G. Sathiyan-led Delhi outfit 8-7 and enter its maiden UTT final.
When these two teams had met in their respective season-openers two Saturdays ago, Goa had stormed past Delhi 11-4.
With Delhi making sea changes to its line-up and strategies, it turned to be a close affair but in the end, Sreeja Akula couldn’t really breach Rishya’s resistance in the deciding game.
When Sathiyan avenged his 0-3 loss in the season-opener with a spirited display against in-form Harmeet Desai, things were looking upbeat for Delhi. However, Suthasini Sawethabut levelled the tie at the games apiece by packing off the unorthodox Ayhika Mukherjee.
When the mixed doubles tie went in favour of Sathiyan and left-handed Barbora Balazova, Goa had to bank its hopes on the higher-ranked Alvaro Robles to stretch the tie into the decider.
Despite Jon Persson’s powerful forehand top-spins putting him in lead, Robles rode high on his reach and flummoxed Persson with his side-spins and top-spins to level the tie at six games apiece.
Reeth — used to facing Sreeja’s long-pimpled backhand rubber — then unleashed her powerful forehand top-spins and closed the tie out with Sreeja committing a forehand top-spin error off the third ball, trailing 8-10 in the third game.
The results: Dabang Delhi TTC lost to Goa Challengers 7-8 (G. Sathiyan bt Harmeet Desai 11-3, 11-9, 8-11; Ayhika Mukherjee lost to Suthasini Sawettabut 5-11, 11-8, 3-11; Sathiyan & Barbora Balazova bt Harmeet & Suthasini 8-11, 11-10, 11-10; Jon Persson lost to Alvaro Robles 11-6, 10-11, 7-11; Sreeja Akula lost to T. Reeth Rishya 4-11, 11-6, 8-11).
Saturday’s semifinal: Chennai Lions vs Puneri Paltan TT, 7.30 p.m.
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