Table tennis / Petroleum men retain title with ease

For Mamta Prabhu, it was like Wednesday once more. Playing the deciding singles under mounting pressure and rising tension, Mamta held her nerves when it really mattered and took Maharashtra ‘A' past the finish-line on Thursday, leaving North Bengal to deal with an agonising defeat.

The trio of National runner-up Mamta, National Games champion Madhurika Patkar and Divya Deshpande, that plotted the fall of mighty Petroleum on Wednesday, followed a similar script for a 3-2 triumph following a thrilling climax of the women team final in the National table tennis championship here.

Maharashtra also became the first Sate to win the women's title after Bengal's triumph at Jammu in 1998.

As expected, the men's team final proved a no-contest. Petroleum drubbed Tamil Nadu 3-0 in an hour to extend its winning streak to 10, and 18 times in all.

Sharath Kamal and Soumyadeep Roy toyed by turns with R.S. Raja and Sivananda Seshadari. In between, A. Amalraj dropped a game to G. Vinod before coming out stronger.

The women's team final that lasted just under three hours followed a predictable course. North Bengal's Ankita Das, the reigning National Youth champion and also the first ever Indian girl to reach the girls'singles quarterfinal in last year, expectedly beat Mamta and Madhurika.

Similarly, Mamta and Madhurika lived up the expectations of scoring over Nandita Saha. In between, Divya Deshpande's triumph over young Takeme Sarkar was a foregone conclusion.

“I was tense playing the deciding match against Nandita. After our victory over Petroleum, we were expected to win the title. But we knew, it would be tough against North Bengal and only our best could help us win,” said the soft-spoken Mamta after the triumph.

The hugely-experienced Nandita, armed with some good results in the last two seasons, was looking to avenge the defeat suffered to Mamta in the National semifinal last year in Kolkata. On that occasion, Mamta had bounced back from 1-5 in the deciding seventh game to stop Nandita.

This time, the two reproduced the action over five games. A determined Nandita made light of a 0-3 start to take the first game after winning five out of the last six points. In the second, where both players held game-points, it was Mamta who nosed ahead by taking the last three points.

In the tense third game, where both players constantly mixed caution and aggression, Nandita broke away from 8-8 to capitalise on the second game-point.

Gaining confidence, Nandita started the fourth game confidently to lead 4-1, 5-2 and 6-4 before Mamta's showed the kind of stuff she is made of and never again trailed in the remainder of the match. She won the next five points and soon forced the decider.

With momentum on her side, Mamta won the first two points and kept up the pressure. Nandita, now choosing to be more defensive, let Mamta finish the points repeatedly.

Up 9-4, Mamta looked like racing way with the decider but Nandita hit right back. She won the next four points to set up a close finish. However, twice in succession, Nandita pushed her backhand returns long to handover the match to Mamta and title to Maharashtra.

The results (team championship final): Men: Petroleum bt Tamil Nadu 3-0 (Sharath Kamal bt R. S. Raja 11-6, 11-7, 11-8; A. Amalraj 11-5, 4-11, 11-8, 11-9; Soumyadeep Roy bt Sivananda Seshadari 11-9, 11-6, 12-10).

Standings: 1. Petroleum, 2. Tamil Nadu, 3-4. Maharashtra ‘A' and Gujarat, 5-8. Railways, North Bengal, Haryana and West Bengal.

Women: Maharashtra ‘A' bt North Bengal 3-2 (Madhurika Patkar bt Nandita Saha 11-6, 11-9, 11-5; Mamta Prabhu lost to Ankita Das 9-11, 11-8, 11-13, 10-12; Divya Deshpande bt Takeme Sarkar 11-5, 13-11, 11-8; Madhurika lost to Ankita 9-11, 10-12, 12-14; Mamta bt Nandita 8-11, 13-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8).

Standings: 1. Maharashtra ‘A', 2. North Bengal, 3-4. Petroleum, West Bengal, 5-8. Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra ‘B' and AAI.

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