The highest-ranked Indian paddler Harmeet Desai and world championships medallist Alvaro Robles powered Goa Challengers to the Ultimate Table Tennis 2023 title on Sunday. They defeated Chennai Lions 8-7 in the final in Pune.
It was the first-ever title for the Goa-based franchise, which took home a sparkling trophy and Rs 75 lakh whilst the runners-up were awarded Rs 50 lakh for their performances this the season.
The contest started with Desai registering a shock 2-1 defeat over world No 32 Benedikt Duda.
Unbeaten in the tournament until the final, Duda began the match on a high and showcased his strength with ferocious shots on both flanks. He won the first game 11-6 before Desai made a remarkable comeback and pocketed the second game 11-4 to force the match into a decider.
The thrilling third game saw a see-saw battle between both the paddlers as they were immaculate with their touches and fought for every point.
In the end, Desai held his nerve to win the game 11-8 and clinch the first match for Goa Challengers.
Yangzi Liu, the first female paddler to score more than 200 points in the league, continued her unbeaten run of the season following this and defeated Suthasini Sawettabut 2-1 to bring the Chennai Lions franchise back into the tie.
In the third match, Achanta Sharath Kamal and Yangzi combined to defeat Desai and Sawettabut 2-1 as the Chennai Lions raced to a 5-4 lead.
The Chennai pair produced remarkable coordination in the first game to win it by 11-7 before clinching the second by 11-9. Desai and Sawettabut won the third game through a golden point.
In the fourth match, Robles blanked Indian veteran Sharath Kamal 3-0 to bring Goa Challengers back into the contest.
The 41-year-old fought well in the first game, but Robles was more accurate as he bagged it 11-8 and carried forward the momentum ahead in the match to register an easy win.
Thereafter, Reeth Rishya earned the required eighth point for Goa Challengers, despite losing 1-2 to 2020 Tokyo Olympian Sutirtha Mukherjee to help her side to the 2023 UTT title.