Indian table tennis’ leading lights Gnanasekaran Sathiyan and Manika Batra hold the key for Dabang Smashers when they face dangerous floaters Maharashtra United in the first semifinal of the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis Powered by Kellogg’s at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here on Friday.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallists Sathiyan and Manika have been the most impressive Indian players this season fetching 16 points for the league toppers. But they run into a resurgent United team, who had defeated them in the league phase with both Sathyan and Manika suffering defeats. The semifinal clash presents a perfect opportunity for the Indian duo to come good and bounce back into reckoning.
United, on the other hand, have relied on their foreign hands Elizabeta Samara (World No. 19) and Kristian Karlsson (World No. 18) to reach the last four. They are peaking at the right time, winning their last two ties after losing the first three. They also hold an edge in tonight’s match having upstaged the Smashers 12-9 during their league meeting.
A tantalising fare is on cards with both teams targeting 11 points to seal the contest.
Venue: Netaji Indoor Stadium, Kolkata
Head to head: Ties played 2; Smashers 1, United 1.
Season 2 record: Smashers WWLLW, Points 63; Maharashtra LLLWW, Points 49.
The impactful players
Elizabeta Samara (United): The left-handed Romanian has almost single-handedly guided her team into the semis. The World No. 19 tops the list of most number of games this season, 14. She’s in top form having won four singles on the trot in United’s last two ties.
G Sathiyan-Sakura Mori (Smashers): They have been the most successful mixed doubles pair, winning all five matches in Smashers’ five ties.
Manika Batra (Smashers): The poster girl of Indian table tennis has provided winning starts for Smashers by shocking much higher ranked players -- World No. 18 Sofia Polcanova 2-1, World No. 30 Matilda Ekholm 2-1, World No. 60 Sabine Winter 2-1, World No. 20 Lee Ho Ching. The only match she lost was to Samara.
Points by Masaki Yoshida, highest tallied in Season 2
Winners by Manika Batra, the most by any player this season
singles victories by G Sathiyan are the most by an Indian male across both editions of CEAT UTT
Matches won by Elizabeta Samara, the most by any female player in the league.
Dabang Smashers TTC: Men: Gnanasekaran Sathiyan (World No 44), Sanish Ambekar, Yoshida Masaki (Japan) World No. 27, Cedric Nuytinck (Belgium) World No. 52. Women: Manika Batra (World No. 80), Archana Kamath (U18 World No. 12), Sakura Mori (Japan) World No. 28, Adriana Diaz (Puerto Rico) World No. 38. Coaches: Sachin Shetty, Andrei Filimon (Romania).
Maharashtra United: Men: Kristian Karlsson (Sweden), World No. 18, Anthony Amalraj, Joao Monteiro (Portugal) World No 71, Utkarsh Gupta. Women: Elizabeta Samara (Romania) World No. 19, Madhurika Patkar, Lily Zhang (USA) World No. 56, Selena Selvakumar. Coaches: N. Ravichandran, Francisco Santos (Portugal).