Dabang Delhi TTC held their nerve to score a tight 8-7 victory over Chennai Lions in the last league tie here on Thursday but will still face table-toppers U Mumba in the first semifinal in the Ultimate Table Tennis on Friday.
Their win was not enough to stop the Lions from catapulting to the second position with 42 points and earning a clash against Goa Challengers in the second semifinal on Saturday.
Dabang finished on par with the Challengers, with 41 points, but won fewer matches than the team from Goa to get U Mumba in their path.
Germany’s Petrissa Solja (World No 24) gave the Lions the early lead, whipping India’s Krittwika Sinha Roy 3-0. She began strongly, attacking the lines to ease to a 4-1 lead in the first set. She held on to that advantage to win it 11-6.
The second set was a much tighter affair, with Krittwika keeping pace till 9-9. But a backhand error at that stage allowed Petrissa to go for the kill.
The third set too turned out to be one-sided despite an initial fight from Krittwika.
The much-awaited contest between Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan G provided a rash of spectacular shots but not the close encounter that was expected.
Sharath played an attacking game but Sathiyan defended smartly, forcing the World No 37 into errors.
Sathiyan broke away at 5-5, taking four straight points to make it 9-5 in the first set. That was enough for him to win it 11-8.
The second set too was even only till 4-4. Sharath slipped into the lead for the first time, making it 6-4. But Sathiyan quickly caught up and wrapped it up at 11-8.
Sharath fell behind in the third set too, looking at a possible wipe-out at 5-8. But he clawed back to 8-8 and then 9-9 before taking the next 2 points to clinch a crucial point for the Lions.
Chennai Lions, however, regained the lead, with Sharath and Petrissa making the most of Dabang’s decision to field young Naina Jaiswal in the Mixed Doubles. Sweden’ Jon Persson stood up bravely for her partner but didn’t really stand a chance against the veteran pair
Sharath-Petrissa bounced away to a facile 3-0 victory, giving away just 3, 5 and 2 points in the three games.
Persson got his revenge in the next match, though, with Chennai Lions giving another young Indian, Anirban Ghosh, an opportunity.
Anirban showed his potential, unleashing a few impressive shots but couldn’t cope with Persson’s experience. He lost 3-11, 5-11, 8-11.
In the final match, Romania’s Bernadette Szocs (World No 14) tamed Madhurika Patkar 3-0 to give her side the victory.