Tamil Nadu men script a dream-win over Gujarat

Mamta Prabhu won more than just a match against K. Shamini. By stunning the reigning National champion for the first time, Mamta put the finishing touches to an unprecedented 3-2 victory for Maharashtra ‘A' over eternal favourite Petroleum in the women's team semifinals in the 73rd National table tennis championship on Wednesday.

Mamta, Madhurika Patkar and Divya Deshpande, representing Maharashtra ‘A', joined hands to pull the rug from under the feet of former and current National champions, Shamini, Mouma Das and Poulomi Ghatak.

Maharashtra ‘A' will now face North Bengal, which defeated last year's finalist West Bengal 3-0. After over two decades, State teams will figure in the National final, virtually monopolised by the institutional teams.

In the men's final, Petroleum men will play surprise finalist Tamil Nadu. After Petroleum expectedly blanked Maharashtra ‘A' 3-0, Tamil Nadu survived two match points in the third singles before beating Gujarat 3-2.

Petroleum's defeat meant the team failed to reach the final for the first time since it was included in the inter-State competition in the late 1980s. In fact, Petroleum has swept the team crowns in succession since 2003.

If the Maharashtra girls displayed tremendous self-belief, with Mamta bouncing back from 1-4 in the deciding game in the final singles, an off-colour Shamini put paid to Petroleum's hopes. She lost the first and the fifth singles to Madhurika and Mamta to nullify the victories of Mouma Das over the same rivals. In that respect, Divya Deshpande's four-game victory over Poulomi in the third singles proved crucial.

Tamil Nadu's 3-2 victory over Gujarat in the men's semifinal stood out. Down 0-2 in the tie, and Sivananda Seshadari facing match-points at 9-10 and 10-11, Tamil Nadu was staring at a 0-3 drubbing. Cheered by Sharath Kamal, among others, Seshadari held his nerves to down Jignesh Jaiswal. An inspired R. S. Raja stunned Harmit Desai to turn the script on its head and well-built G. Vinod pulled off a five-game triumph over an unsure Devesh Karia.

The results: Men: Semifinals: Petroleum bt Maharashtra ‘A' 3-0 (Sharath Kamal bt Eric Fernandes 21-10, 11-4, 11-7; Subhajit Saha bt Chaitanya Udhare 11-9, 11-8, 4-11, 11-3; Soumyadeep Roy bt Rohit Choudhary 13-11, 11-9, 11-6). Tamil Nadu bt Gujarat 3-2 (R.S. Raja lost to Devesh Karia 7-11, 9-11, 6-11; G. Vinod lost to Harmit Desai 7-11, 8-11, 6-11; Sivananda Seshadari bt Jignesh Jaiswal 11-9, 4-11, 7-11, 13-11, 11-5; Raja bt Desai 6-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-9; Vinod bt Devesh 9-11, 11-5, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5).

Quarterfinals: Petroleum bt Railways 3-0; Maharashtra ‘A' bt North Bengal 3-2; Tamil Nadu bt Haryana 3-1; Gujarat bt West Bengal 3-1.

Women: Semifinals: Maharashtra ‘A' bt Petroleum 3-2 (Madhurika Patkar bt K. Shamini 7-11, 11-6, 11-4, 14-12; Mamta Prabhu lost to Mouma Das 11-13, 10-12, 7-11; Divya Deshpande bt Poulomi Ghatak 11-7, 3-11, 11-6, 13-11; Madhurika lost to Mouma 11-6, 5-11, 2-11, 8-11; Mamta bt Shamini 11-8, 12-14, 11-5, 4-11, 11-8). North Bengal bt West Bengal 3-0 (Nandita Das bt Anindita Chakraborty 6-11, 15-13, 3-11, 10-12, 11-8; Ankita Das bt Krittwika Sinha Roy 9-11, 11-2, 11-5, 11-5; Takeme Sarkar bt Pallavi Kundu 8-11, 11-9, 15-13, 11-1). Quarterfinals: Petroleum bt Tamil Nadu 3-0; Maharashtra ‘A' bt Gujarat 3-1; North Bengal bt Maharashtra ‘B' 3-0; West Bengal bt AAI 3-1.

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