Foreign paddlers propel Warriors to 3rd spot in UTT

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Pune, June 19 (IANS) Foreign players stamped their class to help Warriors TTC record a heart-warming 14-7 victory on points over Empowerji Challengers in the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Tuesday.

Warriors, who were languishing at the bottom of the six-team table, rocketed to the third spot (20 points) with this victory and were placed behind leaders Dabang Smashers (31 points) and RP-SG Mavericks (24 points).

The Challengers continue to languish at the bottom with 15 points after the conclusion of the Pune leg. Maharashtra United are placed fourth (20 points) while defending champions Falcons TTC share the last spot with 15 points.

After Warriors’ Sreeja Akula lost the first woman’s singles to World No. 20 Lee Ho Ching 0-3, the Achanta Sharath Kamal-led side came back roaring into the tie with Aruna Quadri, Chih Huan Chuang, Sofia Polcanova and Hana Matelova winning their singles to wrest the lead.

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World No. 18 Sofia also partnered with Sharath to pocket the mixed doubles as Warriors won five matches and lost just two.

The Indian players had an off day as Sreeja, Manav Thakkar (Challengers) and Sharath faltered.

Nigerian Quadri turned in a power-packed display to down the 18-year-old Thakkar 3-0 (11-8, 11-7, 11-3) while the 19-year-old Sreeja showed some sparkle but it was not enough to challenge the Hong Kong player.

Sharath came good in the mixed doubles but struggled to get going against World No. 40 Tiago Apolonia of Portugal 1-2 (5-11, 6-11, 11-6). The Indian veteran, however, gave something for the crowd to cheer by winning the third game with a 24-shot rally.

World No. 15 Chih Yuan of Chinese Taipei caused the biggest upset of the evening defeating Challengers’ captain and World No. 12 Simon Gauzy 3-0 (11-7, 11-6, 11-8).

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Austrian Sofia then increased the team’s tally by upstaging Hungarian Georgina Pota 2-1 (10-11, 11-4, 11-2).

Czech Matelova, playing her first singles match this season, completed Warriors’ dominance by defeating Divya Deshpande in straight games 11-8, 11-7, 11-9.

The event now shifts to Delhi’s Thyagraj Stadium where Smashers take on Mavericks in the first match on Wednesday.

The last leg, including the semi-finals and final, will be played in Kolkata’s Netaji Stadium from June 26.

–IANS

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