Harmeet Desai begins French Pro B League campaign with twin victories 

Harmeet Desai marked his comeback to competitive table tennis with two crucial victories in his first French Pro B League match of the season.

File Photo: World No.72 Desai, who is representing Roanne L.L.T.T., cruised to a comfortable straight-games triumph against Isseenne E.P’s Alexis Douin in the opening game before claiming a thrilling win in the fourth and deciding match of the tie.

Indian paddler Harmeet Desai returned to competitive table tennis action with twin victories in his first French Pro B League match of the season on Sunday.

World No.72 Desai, who is representing Roanne L.L.T.T., cruised to a comfortable straight-games triumph against Isseenne E.P’s Alexis Douin in the opening game  before claiming a thrilling win in the fourth and deciding match of the tie.

He was stretched to deuce in the opening game of the first match but he held his nerve to close out the game 12-10. However, it was smooth sailing from there on  as he wrapped up the other two games in quick succession to clinch the contest 12-10,11-8,11-8 and get his team off to a winning start.

Desai’s teammate Ibrahima Diaw made it 2-0 for Roanne in the tie with a 11-8,11-2,11-7 victory against Mexican Marcos Madrid.

Isseenne E.P, then, fought back through Remi Menand, who handed his opponent Martin Allegro a 3-1 (3-11, 11-7,11-1, 12-10) defeat to keep his team afloat in the  tie.

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The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist was in the thick of action once again, this time against Madrid in the decider. In a contest filled with constant shifts  of momentum, World No. 75 Madrid bagged the first game 11-3. Desai, then, levelled the scoreline by clinching game two 11-6. Both players exchanged blows in the next two games before Harmeet held his own to secure a 3-11,11-6,3-11, 11-8,11-8 win and help his  side get off the mark on a winning note.

Desai, who played his first match after 7 long months, revealed he was nervous going into the contest. “This is the longest I have been away from competitive matches.  I was really excited but at the same time, I was quite nervous because I hadn't played against high level players since the pandemic hit.” Desai told Sportstar over call.

The Surat-born paddler last played the Oman Open in March and admitted he felt rusty during his first outing after the hiatus. “My reactions were a bit slower.  I was regularly practising but playing a match different ball game altogether. My match temperament was not the same as before due to lack of match practice,” Desai said.

The 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist, nonetheless, was happy to return to action with a win. “I am really happy with myself. During the lockdown, I was training  myself mentally to be able to devise different plans to get over any situation. I am really happy that despite not being at my 100 per cent, I could win two matches and help my team win the match. I hope to get better in future games,"