Sathiyan returns to action with win, takes Jaroslaw to victory in Polish Superliga

Ace Indian paddler Sathiyan Gnanasekaran began his Polish Superliga stint on a high note by winning his first singles match with Sokolow S.A. Jaroslaw.

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (second from right) poses with his Sokolow S.A. Jaroslaw teammates ahead of his Polish Superliga debut.   -  POLISH SUPERLIGA

Top Indian paddler Sathiyan Gnanasekaran marked his return to competitive table tennis with a win on his Polish Superliga debut in Gdansk on Friday.

Sathiyan, who is representing Sokolow S.A. Jaroslaw, defeated AZS AWFiS Balta Gdansk's Szymon Malicki 11-3, 5-11, 11-8, 12-14, 11-5 to get his team off to a winning start in the best-of-five tie.

After taking a 2-1 lead, the Chennai-born paddler found himself trailing 8-10 in the fourth game. However, he fought back to save two game points to draw level. He, then, inched ahead before squandering a match point and committing unforced errors in the subsequent points to concede the game.

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The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist found his rhythm in the decider and comfortably sealed victory in the end.

"It's a great feeling to start with a win despite not being at my best. I was quite rusty and my game was on and off. But thankfully, I hit the top gear in the last game and found my rhythm. I was able to move better and played with more confidence. Hopefully, I can take this momentum into the upcoming matches, " Sathiyan told Sportstar over phone from Poland.

"It was a very emotional moment for me (the win). A lot of the players here, including my opponent, have been playing regularly and are in full flow. So, beating him was special and I expect to get better as I play more matches," the 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist added.

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Jaroslaw, a club from the Podkarpackie province of Poland, eventually defeated its opponent AWFiS Balta 3-1 to climb to sixth in the points table.

-Took time to find rhythm and momentum-

World No. 32 Sathiyan played his first match after a 224-day hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 27-year-old, who spent his lockdown in Chennai before returning to practice with coach S. Raman in August, admitted the massive change in conditions and lack of match practice made it difficult for him to get used to the pace of the game.

"I landed very late on the night of the match and only got to practice for one hour in the morning. Plus, coping with the cold weather has not been easy. It was very cold inside the hall as well, making it difficult to move swiftly. The table was very slow. Had I gotten enough practice, I would have adjusted better and faster to the playing surface," the Chennai-born player said.

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He added: "Since I hadn't been in a match situation for a long time, I found it difficult to keep the rallies going. Initially, I was expecting quick points and shorter rallies. Moreover, my feet weren't moving quickly enough in the right direction and the main challenge was to figure out his tactics during the game. However, after a tough fourth game, I capitalised on the momentum and won the game.

Sathiyan and Sokolow S.A. Jaroslaw next play on Sunday, October 18. It will face ASTS Olimpia-Unia Grudziadz in round 10 of the league.

Brief Scores: Sokolow SA Jaroslaw 3-1 AZS AWFiS Balta Gdansk

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran 3-2 Szymon Malicki  (11-3, 5-11, 11-8, 12-14, 11-5)

Kou Lei  3-0 Patryk Chojnowski (14-12, 11-5, 11-6)

Patryk Zatówka 2-3 Tomasz Tomaszuk (11-8, 7-11, 8-11, 11-5, 5-11)

Kou Lei  2-0 Szymon Malicki (11-5, 11-6)