Sharath Kamal turned the clock back to produce a vintage performance in knocking out World No. 16 Patrick Franziska (Germany) 12-10, 3-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9 for a place in the pre-quarterfinals of the World Table Tennis Star Contender tournament in Doha on Tuesday.
Sharath, ranked 32nd, had to draw from his reserves after trailing 0-7 in the fourth game. He used all his experience to close the gap 6-8 before the German managed to force the decider.
“These points were crucial for me when I entered the deciding game,” said Sharath, who pulled off a series of brilliant points in the close fifth game. Some stunning blocks off the backhand and a good number of forehand drives clearly surprised the higher-ranked German.
Down 3-5 in the decider, Sharath found a higher gear during the power-hitting rallies against his former teammate at Borussia Dusseldorf Club in the Bundesliga for two years.
The players were tied until 8-8 when Sharath broke free and established two match-points. Franziska saved one but, after a long rally, his forehand return found the net-chord and went long. Sharath raised his arms in triumph as his friend and team-coach Soumyadeep Roy stood up to applaud the stunning performance.
“Sharath clearly raised his play by a notch in the fourth game and carried the momentum in the decider. Some of the points that Sharath won came after a truly world-class execution,” acknowledged Roy.
Sharath, likely to face another German - World No. 12 and recent winner of the WTT Contender title - Dimitrij Ovtcharov, told Sportstar: “The next match will be tough since Dima is in such hot form. I last beat him in 2010 when he was a junior. Since then, he has beaten me eight or nine times. But I will give it my best shot.”
A little before Sharath sealed his place in the pre-quarterfinals, G. Sathiyan and Manika Batra lost their second round matches to top seeded Japanese rivals.
Sathiyan, nursing an injured shoulder, could not pose much of a challenge to World No. 5 Tomokazu Harimoto. The youngster eased past Sathiyan 11-4, 11-5, 11-8 and prevented a repeat of the loss he suffered in the team event of the 2019 Asian championship.
Manika, too, posed no threat to World No. 3 Japanese Mima Ito. The top-ranked Japanese posted a 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 triumph in quick time. Two days ago, Ito won the WTT Contender title at the same venue.
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