Sharath Kamal won a close five-game battle against Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek minutes before G. Sathiyan lost to Aruna Quadri in the opening round of the World Table Tennis Contender event in Doha on Wednesday.

Sharath, ranked 32, twice led by a game but still had to go the distance for a 17-15, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 triumph.

Sathiyan, ranked 37th, found World No. 21 Aruna Quadri too hot to handle. The Nigerian stayed in control throughout and won 11-7, 11-4, 11-8. Sharath’s roller-coaster ride was laced with long, exciting rallies and plenty of action.

In the initial phase of the marathon opening game, Sharath faltered with his serves and when receiving serves. To his credit, Sharath focussed on getting some rhythm, battled back from 7-10 to save three game-points and led 11-10. He squandered four successive game-points before Sirucek moved to 15-14. Undeterred, Sharath kept attacking and won the next three points to seize the game.

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In the second, Sharath stayed ahead until 8-6 but the fighting Czech produced four straight points and capitalised on his second game-point to level the match at 1-1.

If Sharath dominated the third game, Sirucek returned the favour in the fourth to force the decider. Sharath jumped to leads of 5-1, 7-2 and 9-5 but the lanky Czech clawed back to 9-10 before netting a backhand on the third match-point.

“I am very happy with the way I could execute my plans,” Sharath told Sportstar soon after the match. “Before the match, I thought he was the favourite. Though his ranking is 51, he has progressed very well in the past couple of seasons. I had planned to catch him by being quicker on my feet. I could beat him on speed, not on power.

“Throughout the match, I thought I was ahead of him but he did not let me breathe easy. He kept coming back. I am glad I could keep my cool, and head, to go through,” said Sharath.

The highest-ranked Indian next plays World No. 7 Yun-Ju Lin of Chinese Taipei. Sharath won their first encounter in the team championship of the 2018 Asian Games but lost to him in the 2019 Asia Cup.