India’s top-ranked paddler Sathiyan Gnanasekaran reached the main draw of the ITTF World Cup 2019 after beating two higher-ranked players in the preliminary group stage in Chengdu, China on Friday.

He is the only Indian in action at the season-ending tournament, for which he qualified after a sixth-place finish in the continental qualifier event.

Sathiyan topped Group D after winning both his first-stage matches. First up, he registered a brilliant fightback from 0-2 down against world No 23 Simon Gauzy. Sathiyan beat the Frenchman 4-3 (11-13, 9-11, 11-8, 14-12, 7-11, 11-5, 11-8).

After Gauzy’s win in his second match, the Indian (ranked 30 in the world), was guaranteed a place in the main draw if he he won the third tie of the group. Sathiyan then beat world No 24 Jonathan Groth 4-2 (11-3, 12-10, 7-11, 16-14, 8-11, 11-8) to make sure he will be part of the main draw featuring the top eight paddlers in the world along with qualifiers from the preliminary stage.

The Indian will now face former world No 1 Timo Boll in the pre-quaterfinals. Boll, the 38-year-old star paddler from Germany, is currently ranked eighth in the world. This is the first meeting between the two players on the ITTF circuit.

Sathiyan is making his debut appearance at the ITTF Men’s World Cup. The round of 16 matches will be played on Saturday.