India’s young paddlers Manav Thakkar and Ayhika Mukherjee stunned higher-ranked players in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) League on Saturday.
In the end, RP-SG Mavericks proved to be the superior side of the day, beating last year’s finalists Empowerji Challengers 5-2 to earn 13 points while yielding just 8 in the seven-match encounter.
Ayhika began the march for the Mavericks, upsetting World No. 20 Lee Ho Ching and giving them an unexpected 2-1 lead. But Thakkar, who is also the Under-18 World No. 2, sprung a turnaround for Challengers by shocking World No. 33 Kou Lei.
Ranked 104 spots below her opponent from Hong Kong, Ayhika overcame her first game loss to win 2-1 (4-11, 11-2, 11-5) as she played at her defensive best.
Challengers’ Thakkar then attacked with confidence to gain maximum points (17) on his serve to upstage his Ukrainian rival, ranked 213 places above him. He won 2-1 (11-4, 11-7, 10-11) to tie the score 3-3.
Mavericks, however, surged ahead by winning the mixed doubles, the men’s singles and the women’s singles. Top-ranked womans player Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Hong (World No. 13) enacted the lead role by first teaming up with captain Harmeet Desai to seal the mixed doubles against Arjun Ghosh and Lee Ho Ching 2-1 and then downed Romanian Georgina Pota in the womens singles 2-1 (11-1, 11-8, 6-11).
In between, Swede Mattias Karlsson shocked Challengers captain and the highest ranked men’s singles player (World No. 12) Simon Gauzy 2-1 (8-11, 11-7, 11-7).
Desai almost pulled off a surprise against World No. 40 Tiago Apolonia but was unlucky to lose the third game, with a powerful smash scraping the net giving the golden point to the Portuguese. He lost 1-2 (11-8, 6-11, 10-11). In the day’s last clash, Sabine Winter (Germany) tamed local girl Divya Deshpande 3-0 (11-8, 11-9, 11-5).