Ultimate Table Tennis 2018: Manika Batra sizzles again as Dabang Smashers rise to the top with a big win
Manika Batra continued to hog the limelight in the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis Powered by Kellogg’s by scalping another higher ranked player at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Balewadi here on Monday.
Riding on the winning start provided by the 2018 Commonwealth Games double gold medallist, Dabang Smashers T.T.C put it across defending champions Falcons TTC 17-4. They won six of the seven matches in the tie to emerge as the leaders of the Pune leg with 31 points in their kitty.
The outcome of Tuesday’s tie between Warriors TTC and Empowerji Challengers will not have any bearing on Dabang’s position as they have just 7 and 8 points respectively.
India’s top-ranked male player (World No. 44) and Dabang captain Gnanasekaran Sathiyan also came up with another sterling display by turning in two winning performances. He first teamed up with Japanese Sakura Mori to win their mixed doubles 3-0 against Sanil Shetty and Bernadette Szocs before extending his unbeaten run in singles since last season by upstaging Spain’s Alvaro Robles 3-0 (11-10, 11-6, 11-6).
Once Manika squeezed past World No. 30 Matilda Ekholm 2-1 (8-11, 11-10, 11-10) in a pulsating duel, the Smashers were all over their rivals. Japanese World No. 27 Yoshida Masaki downed Sanil Shetty 3-0 (11-9, 11-4, 11-4) and their fluent victory in the mixed doubles saw the Season 1 semi-finalists race to a 8-1 lead.
The 23-year-old Manika matched her Swedish rival’s guile and unleashed 10 winners that eventually made the difference. All three games were locked at 8-8 but the Indian, ranked World No. 80, broke through twice to net golden points and seal victory.
Falcons’ captain Liam Pitchford reduced the margin with a hard-fought 2-1 (11-10, 11-9, 6-11) victory over Masaki, who featured in two men’s singles matches tonight. It was the only win that Falcons registered in the tie as Smashers’ 17-year-old Puerto Rican Adriana Diaz, Sathiyan and Mori won the remaining three singles without much ado.
World No. 38 Adriana’s attacking display was instrumental in the youngest player of the tournament accounting for the 23-year-old Romanian Bernadette 2-1 (11-9, 11-8, 9-11).
Sakura completed Dabang’s dominance with a 3-0 (11-3, 11-7, 11-10) win over Sutirtha Mukherjee.
Dabang Smashers T.T.C beat Falcons TTC 17-4
Women’s singles: Manika Batra bt Matilda Ekholm (Swe) 2-1 (8-11, 11-10, 11-10
Men’s singles: Yoshida Masaki (Jpn) bt Sanil Shetty 3-0 (11-5, 11-4, 11-8)
Mixed doubles: G Sathiyan/ Sakura Mori (Jpn) bt Sanil Shetty/ Bernadette Szocs (Rom) 3-0 (11-9, 11-4, 11-4)
Men’s singles: Yoshida Masaki lost to Liam Pitchford (Eng) 1-2 (10-11, 9-11, 11-6)
Women’s singles: Adriana Diaz (Pue) bt Bernadette Szocs 2-1 (11-9, 11-8, 9-11)
Men’s singles: G Sathiyan bt Alvaro Robles (Esp) 3-0 (11-10, 11-6, 11-6)
Women’s singles: Sakura Mori bt Sutirtha Mukherjee 3-0 (11-3, 11-7, 11-10)