India’s men’s table tennis team created history on Monday by ensuring the nation’s first ever medal in the sport by defeating Japan 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
The team comprising of G Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai upset second seeds Japan – who were not fielding their best side, but still had higher-ranked players – to reach the semi-finals.
World No 39 Sathiyan beat world No 19 Kenta Matsudaira 3-1 in the 4th match of the tie to give India a memorable win.
The tie was set up nicely for India when Sathiyan and Sharath Kamal beat the top two players in Japan’s squad with Harmeet Desai in the position to wrap the match up 3-0. After leading by two games to one, Desai couldn’t cross the finish line against Yoshida.
It was then Sathiyan who stepped up in the crunch match and sealed the deal for India.
Here’s full list of India’s wins: (World ranking in brackets)
Sathiyan G (#33) v Jin Ueda (#28) 11-9, 11-9, 11-7
Sharath Kamal (#39) v Kenta Matsudaira (#19) 11-8, 12-10, 11-8
Harmeet Desai (#99) v Masaki Yoshida (#57) 11-9, 12-14, 11-8, 8-11, 4-11
Sathiyan G (#33) v Kenta Matsudaira (#19) 12-10, 6-11, 11-7, 11-4
For the Indians, it did not matter if Japan’s top three players were missing from the competition.
“At the end of the day, it is an Asian Games medal. I never dreamt of it,” veteran Achanta Sharath Kamal, told PTI.
Until Monday, India did not have a single medal in the sport which was introduced in the Games program in 1958. The likes of China (61 gold), Japan (20) and South Korea (10) swept the medals for long time.
Word number 33, Sharath, blanked world number 19 Kenta Matsudaira 11-8, 12-10, 11-8 in the only singles he needed to play. Rising star G Sathiyan, ranked 39, delivered on the big stage, winning both his singles games. Sathiyan hammered Ueda in straight games and took four games to get the better of Matsudaira.
“We had come close to beating Japan in the Asian Championships last year. So it is not as if it was completely unexpected. We were on the right track. We have a solid team now,” Sharath told PTI.
Winning the quarterfinals in the night against a strong opponent like Japan was a mighty feat, considering the team had played two pool matches against Macau and Vietnam earlier in the day. The men had lost to Chinese Taipei 2-3 yesterday to finish second in the group.
Earlier, in the women’s team event, India lost to Hong Kong 1-3 in the quarterfinals.
The Indian women were too reliant on Manika Batra, who stunned world number 20 Lee Ho Ching in the opening singles. The 57th ranked Indian beat Ching 11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 11-6.
However, her teammates could not cross the finish line despite giving a tough fight. Ayhika Mukherji stretched world number 13 Doo Hoi Kem before going down 14-12, 4-11, 10-12, 8-11 in the second singles. Mouma Das too took Soo Wai Yam Minnie to the full distance of five games but lost 6-11, 13-11, 11-8, 3-11, 5-11.
Doo and Manika played the fourth rubber but the Hong Kong player was too good for India’s best female paddler, winning 11-8, 11-8, 13-11 to seal the tie for Hong Kong.