Sathiyan Gnanasekaran overturned a 0-2 deficit to win (4-3) against France’s Simon Gauzy and then proceeded to beat Danish player Jonathan Groth (4-2) in his second match at the ITTF World Cup 2019 in China on Friday.
Those victories helped the Indian table tennis star top Group D with four points and qualify to the main draw of the tournament in Chengdu.
Sathiyan digs deep
Sathiyan got off to a slow start to his maiden appearance at the World Cup, staring down the barrel of defeat after losing the first two games (11-13 and 9-11).
The 26-year-old though, rallied back to win the next two games (11-8 and 14-12) to bring parity to the contest.
In a dramatic encounter, the Frenchmen took the fifth game (11-7) to leave Sathiyan's chances looking slim.
But the seventeenth seeded Indian dug deep, with his trusty backhand block helping him take the sixth game 11-5 and level the encounter once more at 3-3.
With momentum firmly in his side, Sathiyan raced to a 9-4 lead in the deciding game and looked set to win the contest. The Frenchman, however, did not go down without a fight and picked up four of the next five points to cut the deficit down to two.
However, the Indian star held his nerve and prevailed in an epic contest 4-3 - his first ever triumph over Gauzy - to put himself in a strong position to qualify for the knockouts.
Sathiyan stays in command
High on confidence after his win against Gauzy, Sathiyan started the match against Groth with fire in his belly and dominated the Dane in the opening game to win (11-3).
The second, however, was a much closer affair, as the duo stayed within a couple of points of each other right up until the end.
With the score 10-8 in Sathiyan’s favour, Groth scored two unanswered points to stay alive in the game, but the Indian fired back with a couple of points of his own to take the game 12-10 and eke out a 2-0 lead in the contest.
The Dane won the third game (11-7) but found himself down 10-8 in the fourth. He rallied to win three straight points which gave him the opportunity to level the match at 2-2, but some excellent defence from Sathiyan helped him tie the score at 11-apiece. The two traded the next six points evenly, however, two unanswered points from Sathiyan helped him win the game (16-14).
Groth responded by taking the fifth game (11-8), but in the sixth, Sathiyan raced to a 7-2 lead to put himself in a commanding position in the match. The Dane fought valiantly to cut the deficit to two but the Indian ace held his nerve to win the game (11-8) and the match (4-2) to advance to the knockouts.
A superb performance from Sathiyan to top the group and send him through to the main draw.
Now he will face the world number eight Timo Boll of Germany in the knockout round of 16 on Saturday.