The CEAT UTT has reached the final knockout stages. After an exciting 2 weeks, we are down to the last 3 matches, 2 semi finals and the final. Let us look at the 2 teams playing the first semi final and how they are matching up for the it.
Semi Final 1 : Dabang Smashers vs Maharashtra United
Dabang Smashers have been the table toppers, but have they been the most consistent? Not really!
Strengths : Incredible form of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra, Mixed doubles pair of Sathiyan and Sakura Mori being unbeaten.
Weaknesses : Inconsistent performances of their foreign players.
Masaki Yoshida, Cedrick Nuytinck, Adriana Diaz have all blown hot and cold, winning some amazing matches, but also losing some which they should have converted. The Dabang Smashers topped the table because when they won, they won big! But they actually did lose 2 ties, as compared to the Mavericks and the Falcons, who are below them in the table but have lost just a solitary tie. In the knockouts it’s all about the tie now more than the games, and having lost to Maharashtra United in the group stage, Smashers will have to bring in their A game to make it to the finals.
Maharashtra United sneaked through into the top 4 with a thrilling last match against the Warriors where they won by a single point to scrape through to the semis. Their strengths and weaknesses are actually quite opposite to those of the Smashers.
Strengths : Form of lead foreign players Elizabeta Samara, Kristian Karlsson, having 2 mixed doubles pairs.
Elizabeta Samara has just been growing better and better, and the injury that she had, instead of hampering her has actually taken the quality of her game to a different level. Also, before the injury Amalraj played doubles with Samara, and they formed a great team, but later in the last 2 ties it was Amalraj and Lily Zhang, as Samara was selected to play 2 singles. Amalraj and Zhang did win the crucial mixed doubles against Sharath Kamal and Sofia Polcanova, who were the favourites for the match. Thus, the Smashers can be kept guessing about which doubles team will come out in today’s match.
Weaknesses : Their Indian paddlers need to step up! Madhurika Patkar is yet to win a match while Amalraj has won just 1 match in the singles. Coincidentally it was against the Smashers Cedrick Nuytinck, 3 – 0. If these 2 contribute more by winning some matches for their side, then with the firepower of the foreign players that they have, they can certainly make it to the finals!
It’s tough to call this match! A glance at the points table and one will say that the Smashers are the favourites. But remember, Maharashtra United did beat the Smashers in the group stage! I personally believe that the way the CEAT UTT teams are formed, all the teams are more or less equal! It’s a level playing field and it’s all about who takes the crucial moments and converts them for the team. The game needs to be upped today!