Manav, Ayhika stun higher-ranked foreign rivals in UTT
Pune, June 15 (PTI) India's young paddlers Manav Thakkar and Ayhika Mukherjee created a flutter at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here, stunning much higher-ranked players in the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT).
In the end, RP-SG Mavericks proved to be the superior side of the day beating last year's finalists Empowerji Challengers 5-2. They picked up 13 points in the process while yielding just 8 in the seven-match encounter.
Ayhika began the march for the Mavericks, upsetting World No. 20 Lee Ho Ching and giving them an unexpected 2-1 lead; but India's teen sensation Thakkar, who is also the Under-18 World No. 2, sprung a turnaround for Challengers by shocking World No. 33 Kou Lei.
Ranked 104 spots below her opponent from Hong Kong, Ayhika overcame her first game loss to win 2-1 (4-11, 11-2, 11-5). She defended smartly to unsettle Lee Ho Ching and kept her calm all through the match for an important victory.
Challengers' Thakkar then attacked with confidence to gain maximum points (17) on serve to upstage his Ukrainian rival, who is ranked 213 places above him in the rankings. He won 2-1 (11-4, 11-7, 10-11) to tie the scores 3-3.
Mavericks, however, surged ahead by winning the mixed doubles, the men's singles and the women's singles. Top-ranked woman's player Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Hong (World No. 13) enacted the lead role by first teaming up with captain Harmeet Desai to seal the mixed doubles against Arjun Ghosh and Lee Ho Ching 2-1 and then downed Romanian Georgina Pota in the women's singles 2-1 (11-1, 11-8, 6-11).
In between, Swede Mattias Karlsson shocked Challengers' captain and the highest ranked men's singles player (World No. 12) Simon Gauzy 2-1 (8-11, 11-7, 11-7) in an entertaining duel.
Desai almost pulled off a surprise against World No. 40 Tiago Apolonia but was unlucky to lose the third game with a powerful smash scraping the net, giving the golden point to the Portuguese. He lost 1-2 (11-8, 6-11, 10-11).
In the day's last clash, Sabine Winter (Germany) tamed local girl Divya Deshpande 3-0 (11-8, 11-9, 11-5)