U Mumba books semifinal berth, pushes Paltan to the brink

Overseas players make the decisive difference as the Mumbai side registers a 9-6 win

U Mumba became the first team to ensure a place in the semifinals with a 9-6 defeat of a struggling Puneri Paltan in the Ultimate Table Tennis league here on Saturday.

After four matches, Mumba tops the table with 33 points, while Paltan, which upstaged defending champion Dabang Delhi in the opener, has 23 and is almost certain to be confined to the cellar.

For a change, the overseas players made the decisive difference.

In the last two singles, the 39th-ranked Kirill Gerassinmenko surprised the 36th-ranked Chuang Chih-Yuan 2-1 and the 11th-ranked Doo Hoi Kem expectedly proved superior to Sabine Winter, ranked 58th, by a similar scoreline to make Mumba’s victory look convincing.

Even in the first two singles, Mumba proved stronger and Paltan was left to rue the successive defeats of the recently crowned Commonwealth singles champions Harmeet Desai and Ayhika Mukherjee. Mumba won all four singles 2-1 and lost the mixed doubles by an identical margin.

From the outset, it was evident that the pressure of scoring a big win to stay in contention for a place in the semifinals was pulling Paltan down. And this suited Mumba.

Too much pressure

Sutirtha Mukherjee started well and came out stronger against Ayhika. But a bigger blow awaited Paltan when Harmeet found the pressure of a must-win situation too much to handle against an upbeat Manav Thakkar and lost the first two games.

In mixed doubles, Chuang showed his class and played the key role in Paltan’s win. If Paltan expected Chuang to recreate the magic against Gerassimenko, it was not to be.

The Kazakh proved a shade better, coming up with some splendid responses and winning the big points.

“I had lost to him in the last Asia Cup, so I was keen to beat him today. It was a tough match and I must say I got a bit lucky in the final game. But it was a close match,” said Gerassimenko.

Doo, despite a minor hiccup on ‘golden point’ in the second game, was always in control against Sabine and provided a fitting finale to her team.

The results:

U Mumba bt Puneri Paltan 9-6 (Surtitha Mukherjee bt Ayhika Mukherjee 11-7, 6-11, 11-5; Manav Thakkar bt Harmeet Desai 11-6, 11-8, 8-11; Thakkar & Doo Hoi Kem lost to Chuang Chih-Yuan & Ayhika 5-11, 6-11, 11-6; Kirill Gerassimenko bt Chuang Chih-Yuan 11-7, 6-11, 11-8; Doo Hoi Kem bt Sabine Winter 11-5, 10-11, 11-3).

Sunday’s fixture: Dabang Delhi v RP-SG Mavericks (Kolkata), 7 p.m.

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