Hungarian Open TT: Confident Sathiyan makes rapid strides

Sathiyan, who recently signed a deal with the Japanese T-League side Okayama Rivets for the 2020-21 season, has taken positives from his singles campaign.

G. Sathiyan notched a convincing 4-0 win over Iranian Alamiyan at the Hungarian Open.   -  G. Ramakrishna

In September 2019, the table tennis fraternity witnessed one of the biggest upsets on the table when G. Sathiyan defeated world No. 5 Tomokaz Harimoto in straight games at the Asian Championships.

Five months later, the two players met again at the Hungarian Open. But this time, the Japanese prodigy Harimoto settled the score as he registered a resounding 11-8, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 win in the round of 16 in Budapest on Friday.

India’s highest-ranked paddler Sathiyan mentioned that he was in supreme form and shape in the Asian Championships but it is not the case currently.

“That day [in the Asian Championships] he took a lot of pressure on himself. Today, his forehands were very strong. He has always had a strong backhand, so I tried to target his forehand, but it didn’t work. I could not handle the power and pace from both sides,” Sathiyan told Sportstar over the phone from Budapest after his match.

Sathiyan, who recently signed a deal with the Japanese T-League side Okayama Rivets for the 2020-21 season, has taken a few positives from his singles campaign here despite the loss. He started with a convincing 4-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-9, 11-2 ) win over Iranian Alamiyan in the round of 32.

“It was a great win against Nashad. He had beaten a lot of good players in the qualification rounds to reach the main draw as the standards are very high at the Hungarian Open. Only 6 out of the 16 top players went past the first round. I dominated the match completely and I am very happy with the way I played.”

Getting to start in the main draw in Hungary was another success for world No. 30 Sathiyan as it had never happened before. Owing to his high ranking, he was directly given a ticket to the main draw. In 2019 and 2018, he failed to clear the qualification round.

“That is the advantage when you keep playing better and your world ranking is higher, you have a better chance to start from the main draw. The top players have that luxury. First, it was round of 64 but it's round of 32 now,” Sathiyan said.

When asked if playing three matches in two different categories (men’s singles and doubles) had an impact on his performance, the 27-year-old brushed it off saying it’s a usual process.

“It was a little tricky to start from the main draw because the players [coming from the qualification round] have already played 3-4 matches and they are already accustomed to the conditions and are already in the zone. But at the same time, you also get tired. So, there are two sides to it.

“Moreover, we have been playing this for quite a long time. I had back-to-back- matches in a span of a few hours. Yes, that luxury of only playing one or two matches a day and coming back the next day was not there. But when you reach this far in a tournament in singles and doubles, it’s always the case.”

Sathiyan’s tournament is not over yet. Later on Saturday, he will partner Sharath Kamal in the men’s doubles final against Germany’s Benedikt Duda and Patrick Franziska. This is the first time the duo has reached the final of a world tour event and are on the brink of creating history.

“It’s a historic moment. We always love to set the benchmark high. We have been playing together well for a while now and It’s not in every tournament that we make it this far. It won’t be easy against them [the German pair] but we will try our best,” Sathiyan said.