New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) Chennai Lions overcame their opening tie debacle to roar to their first win in Ultimate Table Tennis season three, overpowering Puneri Paltan 10-5 on day four at the Thyagaraj Stadium here on Sunday.
Germany’s Petrissa Solja and birthday boy Tiago Apolonia of Portugal were the stars of their tean’s comprehensive win, setting up the momentum early on.
Solja blanked Commonwealth Championship gold medal winner Ayhika Mukherjee 3-0 in the opening women’s singles, while Apolonia staved off a fighting Harmeet Desai of Puneri Paltan 2-1 to hand Chennai the firm advantage (5-1) just two matches into the tie.
Sharath Kamal and Solja then eased past Desai and Sabine Winter 2-1 in the mixed doubles, to seal the win in the Lions’ favour.
Solja helped the Lions’ begin on a strong note, with a 3-0 win over Mukherjee in an intensely fought women’s singles opening encounter.
Although ranked 108 places below world number 26 Solja, Mukherjee showed great composure and fighting spirit as she made her opponent sweat in the first game.
Appearing confident and fired-up, she raced to a 5-2 lead before Rio Olympic silver medallist Solja relied on her experience to pull level at 5-5. From there on, she showcased some deft touches and superb net play to take a handy 10-8 lead.
Mukherjee fought back hard and saved two game points before Solja finally pocketed the opening game on the golden point (11-10).The second game began in the same vein, with Solja being tested by her younger opponent, who was cheered wildly by the home crowd. Mukherjee led 2-0 but thereafter lost her way as Solja opened up a huge lead at 10-5 and sealed the game at 11-6.
The final game (11-8) too went Solja’s way, who survived some anxious moments to stave off a dangerous-looking Mukherjee to hand Chennai the early advantage.
Chennai consolidated on their lead when Apolonia came from a game down to defeat Desai 2-1 in the opening men’s singles match. Stretched by Desai in the opening game which he lost 8-11, thrice Olympian Apolonia showed exemplary agility and game reading to make a brilliant comeback.
In the second game, Apolonia and Desai breathed down each other’s necks and were well poised at 5-5 and then at 9-9. Once again experience came to the fore, with Apolonia winning the game on golden point (11-10) to take it to the decider. Apolonia was in his element in the final game, often playing away from the table and taking advantage of his height to quell Desai’s challenge (11-7).
The mixed doubles too went Chennai’s way. Sharath-Solja had an easy run in the opening game, winning it 11-7 and kept up the good work throughout. They pocketed the following games 11-7 and 11-6 to hand Chennai the win as they now led 8-1 overall.
Later, in the second men’s singles, Puneri Paltan’s Chuang Chih-Yuan beat Sharath Kamal 2-1 (11-5, 11-10, 3-11) in what was another gripping contest. Despite losing the first two games, Sharath showcased some delightful shots in the third to reel one point off Chuang.
The day’s last match saw Puneri’s Winter defeat Madhurika Patkar 2-1 of Chennai in the second women’s singles match.