Goa Challengers came away unscathed in a bruising battle against Dabang Delhi, scoring a tense 8-7 victory in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) at the Thyagraj stadium in New Delhi on Friday.
Amalraj Anthony picked up two unexpected points in the first Men’s Singles, leaving the stage for young Archana Kamath to rally the team in the final clash of the day.
In an engrossing clash with a valiant Krittwika Sinha Roy, the reverse Women’s Singles, 19-year-old Archana played like a pro to win 2-1.
Archana lost the first set against a confident and attacking Krittwika but steeled herself to win the second at 2. She stayed ahead in the final set too at every step, thwarting Krittwika’s efforts to unsettle her and winning 11-8.
Delhi’s fall began with Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the highest-ranked men’s player in the tournament at World No 30, unexpectedly losing to Spain’s Alvaro Robles 1-2 in the reverse Men’s Singles.
He and Bernadette Szocs claimed the Mixed Doubles 2-1 but that was never going to be enough for his team after Amalraj’s win over Jon Persson.
Earlier, Romania’s Szocs put Delhi ahead in the opening Women’s Singles match, breezing past Shruti Amrute of Goa Challengers 2-1 (11-8, 11-8, 10-11).
Goa were dealt an early blow when their in-form player Cheng I-Ching, World No 9, was ruled out of the tie with high fever. In her absence, Shruti was handed her UTT debut and she acquitted herself well, managing to take off one set from her experienced opponent. Szocs took the opening game 11-8 and then the second one too by the same margin. Shruti, though, came back strongly in the third, taking the lead at 7-6 and finishing it off with a golden point, to earn a crucial point for her team.
Amalraj, however, negated Delhi’s advantage by shocking Sweden’s Jon Persson 2-1. In a riveting contest, the two traded points all the way till 7-all in the first set. But Persson pulled away at that stage, taking all four points to wrap it up.
Amalraj surrendered the advantage, yielding a 0-4 lead. But he caught up with the Swede, only to lose his way again, capitulating 8-11.
He wielded his close-to-the-table play much better in the decider, narrowing the angles to bedazzle Persson and win it 11-8.
The Mixed Doubles was a much tighter battle, with fortunes rapidly swinging from end to the other. Sathiyan-Szocs jumped to a 5-0 lead, only to see Robles-Archana regain parity. The Goa Challengers even edged ahead 9-6 before the inevitable golden point loomed. A sharp forehand by Archana gave her side an 11-10 win.
In the second set too, the Delhi pair felled behind 6-9 to be looking at a shock defeat. But Sathiyan played a couple of big shots to win it 11-9. They stayed in control in the third, to wrap it up 11-8.