It was “easier than expected” for Sharath Kamal as he joined Harmeet Desai in the men’s singles pre-quarterfinals soon after second seeded veteran Vladimir Samsonov fell at the first hurdle in the ITTF World Tour Indian Open table tennis tournament here on Thursday.
On a day when the Indian challenge in doubles ended, Mousumi Paul exposed the frailties in the arsenal of Manika Batra and young Krittwika Sinha Roy blew away five match-points against Huajun Jiang before National champion Madhurika Patkar, Amrutha Pushkar and Selena Selvakumar exited.
Among the Indian men, 82nd ranked Soumyajit Ghosh tossed away a 3-2 lead and let the 60th ranked German Richardo Walther escape to a 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 8-11, 3-11, 11-6, 11-6 triumph in the last match of the day.
The biggest upset of the day was the ouster of Samsonov at the hands of young Japanese Asuka Sakai, the winner of the under-21 title the previous evening. In their first ever encounter, Sakai outplayed an off-colour former World No. 1 Samsonov, currently eighth, 11-5, 12-10, 11-9, 11-4. While the Japanese described his victory as the biggest of his career, a dejected Samsonov said, “I just did not get into the match. I made too many mistakes,” and hurriedly left the arena.
The brighter aspect of the Indian performance came from Sharath and Harmeet who proved stronger against their French rivals.
Facing a lower-ranked rival in Can Akkuzu, Sharath was at his attacking best in the first three games. He admitted losing his “line” of attack in the fourth game and allowing the youngster to get back into the match. But in the fifth game, Sharath was in his elements as he focussed on varying the pace of his returns that repeatedly foxed Akkuzu. He won both points on serve to hold two match-points and then finished with a flourish — a forehand cross court drive that was more for the gallery.
“It was easier than expected. I was vary of his backhand flick returns, something the new generation players have grown up playing and I’m not very comfortable with. But he let me get off to the kind of start I like. Overall, it was a good start especially after the way we (Sharath and Sanil Shetty) lost the doubles so easily,” said Sharath.
Sharath faces Japan’s Yuto Maramatsu, known for his defensive skills. “I have never played him. But knowing his abilities to return, I should be ready to play seven games,” said the Indian, knowing he has a tough match ahead.
The results (first round):
Men singles: Sharath Kamal bt Can Akkuzu (Fra) 11-5, 11-8, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8; Niwa Koki (Jpn) bt A. Amalraj 11-4, 11-5, 15-13, 11-4; Harmeet Desai bt Tristan Flore (Fra) 11-4, 11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 7-11, 11-6; Asuka Sakai (Jpn) bt Vladimir Samsonov (Blr) 11-5, 12-10, 11-9, 11-4; Tianji Jiang (Hkg) bt Duda Benedict (Ger) 5-11, 4-11, 6-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-3, 11-9; Yuto Muramatasu (Jpn) bt Abdel-Kader Salifou (Fra) 12-10, 11-4, 11-7, 11-5; Robert Gardos (Aut) bt Samuel Walker (ENG) 11-5, 11-7, 11-6, 11-6; Ruwen Filus (Ger) bt Quentin Robinot (Fra) 11-3, 12-10,11-6, 11-6; Sanil Shetty bt Patrick Baum (Ger) 11-7, 11-4, 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8; Ricardo Walther (Ger) bt Soumyajit Ghosh 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 8-11, 3-11, 11-6, 11-6.
Women singles: Huajun Jiang (Hkg) bt Krittwika Sinha Roy 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 13-11, 8-11, 8-11, 19-17; Mousumi Paul bt Manika Batra 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-8; Sutirtha Mukherjee bt Ankita Das 11-5, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9; Wai Yam Minnie Soo (Hkg) bt Madhurika Patkar 9-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-4, 11-9; Yi-Ju Wang (Tpe) bt Amrutha Pushpak 11-8, 11-9, 11-6, 11-9; Jieni Shao (Por) bt Selena Selvakumar 11-5, 11-2, 11-8, 11-5.
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