by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Gao Ning and Yu Mengyu, the top seeds, flew the flag for Singapore; they beat Sharath Kamal Achanta and Mouma Das in five games (11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7), before England’s Liam Pitchford and Tin-Tin Ho, the no.4 seeds, upset the order of merit to overcome Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra, the no.2 seeds (11-8, 12-10, 5-11, 8-11, 15-13).
There was no place for the faint hearted; Liam Pitchford and Tin-Tin Ho trailed 8-10 in the second game, before winning four points in a row to establish a two games to nil lead. In the fourth they went ahead 4-1, the Indian duo called “Time Out”, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra recovered but at 10-7 in the deciding fifth game England held three match points.
Incredibly as nerves jangled, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra won the next four points; the tension of the occasion was reflected by the reaction of Marcus Sjöberg, the England national coach sitting courtside, when the Indian duo drew level at 10-all, the force with which he thumped the adjoining chair almost created a hole in the seat, or broken his hand!
A full house in the Oxenford Studies was captivated, the English pair saved one more match point; then spurned an opportunity before on their overall fifth match point leaping for joy.
“We made a good start. Manika’s style is strange, the long pimples on the backhand, so we tried to keep away from that side; Sathiyan is safe, for us it was case of top spin the first ball on the table and then take things from there. Losing three match points from 10-7 in the fifth, it was a case of keep going and play our game. Tomorrow, the final; we were silver medallists in Glasgow four years ago, so we take that with us, we keep fighting, a final who knows what may happen.” Liam Pitchford
“I think when I played towards Manika it helped that I use short pimples on my forehand so there was not much top spin on the ball; that made it difficult for her.” Tin-Tin Ho
Drama, equally the success gained by Gao Ning and Yu Mengyu over Sharath Kamal Achanta and Mouma Das, in the match that started the day, was a tense affair. It was a contest that hinged on the quality of the service and the quality of the receive; rallies were few and far between; the pivotal stage of the match came in the fourth game with the Singaporeans behind two games to one and trailing 3-4. Gao Ning signalled “Time Out”, the advice from Liu Jiayi, the national coach, worked to perfection.
“I told Gao Ning to return service with top spin and use his forehand; Achanta was very strong from the forehand so we had to make the changes.” Liu Jiayi
“In the second game Mouma was reading our services well, we needed to make changes; in the fourth game we made the changes. I think from the start we were slightly the better pair.” Gao Ning
The bronze medal and gold medal matches are scheduled for Sunday 15th April, the bronze match at 9.30am, the gold contest at 10.15 am.