ITTF India Open: Irrepressible Sharath gate-crashes into last eight

Sharath Kamal once again proved why he is a cut above the rest among the greats of country’s table tennis players when he upstaged World No. 24 Yuto Muramatsu, the fourth strongest Japanese in the game on Friday, with a display of flamboyance and domination.

SharathKamal

Sharath Kamal dropped just one game in his victory in the pre-quarterfinals.   -  Special Arrangement

Sharath Kamal is doing what he does best – move well, attack and finish with a flourish.

The top-ranked Indian once again proved why he is a cut above the rest among the greats of country’s table tennis players. Ranked 62, Sharath upstaged World No. 24 Yuto Muramatsu - the fourth strongest Japanese in the game - on Friday, with a display of flamboyance and domination.

Sharath won 11-8, 11-7, 11-4, 14-16, 11-4 and entered the quarterfinals of the USD 50,000 ITTF World Tour India Open table tennis tournament here. For a place in the semifinals, Sharath faces England’s Paul Drinkhall, the sixth seed, whom he has beaten in their last three meetings.

Though Sanil Shetty lost after leading 2-1 against Austria’s Robert Gardos, seeded eight, and Harmeet Desai succumbed to the superiority of third seeded Japanese Koki Niwa, it was a day when Indians gave a good account of themselves.

'I'm liking the way I'm moving'

Muramatsu, a defensive player known to retrieve endlessly by staying away from the table, could not get his way as Sharath kept the Japanese on the move and executed the finishing strokes with amazing accuracy. The first three games proved one-sided after which Sharath squandered four match-points in the fourth game to lose 14-16. But Sharath was back at his attacking best and won the fifth rather easily.

“I’m liking the way I’m moving. That’s the reason why I could finish the points against a defensive player like Muramatsu. [On Friday], I stroked the ball really well and that was the difference,” said Sharath, indicating that his plan worked to near-perfection.

Desai, who upstaged sixth seeded Frenchman Tristan Flore in the opening round, could not recreate the magic against Niwa, the vanquisher of A. Amalraj in the first round. Against Niwa, ranked 19th in the world and third strongest in his country, Desai produced a sterling first game which he claimed 16-14 but thereafter, it was the Japanese all the way.

In the ladies section, where all four Indians – Mousumi Paul, Mouma Das, Sutirtha Das and Archana Kamath – fell to seeded rivals, second seed Lee Ho Ching from Hong Kong could play to her seeding. Ching, ranked 24th in the world and second in her country, surprisingly lost to compatriot Mak Tze Wing after leading 3-1. Wing, ranked 102, held her nerves in the last three close games to win 11-5, 11-4, 1-12, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9.

Given the fact that Indian girls seldom reach the main draw of World Tour events, their performances on this day were praiseworthy. Archana took World No. 37 Sakura Mori to six games to reinforce the growing belief that this Karnataka youngster is the one to watch out for. Mousumi was impressive in holding a game-point at 10-9 in the fourth game against top seed Do Ho Ching, ranked 13th. Suthirtha Mukherjee took fifth seed Jiang Huajun, ranked 36, to five games and seasoned Mouma Das managed to stretch 61st ranked Ng Wing Nam, seeded eighth, in the fourth game.

The results (prefix denotes seeding)

Men singles (pre-quarterfinals): 1-Dimitrij Ovtcharov (Ger) bt Joao Gerlado (Por) 11-3, 11-3, 11-5, 11-4; 5-Yuya Oshima (Jpn) bt Masataka Morizono (Jpn) 11-5, 11-4, 6-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8; Jiang Tianyi (Hkg) bt 12-Ricardo Walther (Ger) 11-13, 7-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-5, 11-9, 14-12; 3-Koki Niwa (Jpn) bt Harmeet Desai 14-16, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4, 11-9; 11-Sharath Kamal bt 4-Yuto Muramatsu (Jpn) 11-8, 11-7, 11-4, 14-16, 11-4; 6-Paul Drinkhall (Eng) bt Ruwen Filus (Ger) 11-4, 16-14, 11-8, 6-11, 11-5; 8-Robert Gardos (Aut) bt Sanil Shetty 11-9, 9-11, 10-12, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7; 14-Tomokazu Harimoto (Jpn) bt Asuka Sakai (Jpn) 11-9, 11-7, 13-15, 11-7, 11-13, 11-7; (first round): Masataka bt G. Sathiyan 11-9, 12-10, 7-11, 8-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8.

Women singles (pre-quarterfinals): 1-Doo Hoi Kem (Hkg) bt Mousumi Paul 11-2, 11-6, 11-6, 13-11; 5-Jiang Huajun (Hkg) bt Suthirtha Mukherjee 11-4, 11-3, 13-11, 9-11, 11-6; 7-Jieni Shao (Por) bt 15-Wang Yi Ju (Tpe) 10-12, 13-11, 17-15, 11-6, 11-5; 4-Matilda Ekholm (Swe) bt 13-Lin Po-Hsuan (Tpe) 11-3, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6; 3-Georgina Pota (Hun) bt 9-Soo Wai Yam Minnie (Hkg) 11-8, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10; 8-Ng Wing Nam (Hkg) bt Mouma Das 11-6, 11-7, 11-9, 15-13; 6-Sakura Mori (Jpn) bt Archana Kamath 11-3, 13-11, 5-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-4; 11-Mak Tze Wing (Hkg) bt 2-Lee Ho Ching (Hkg) 11-5, 11-4, 1-12, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9.