German efficiency triumphed over Indian hopes of a first-ever table tennis doubles title.
Achanta Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran settled for the silver medal at the Hungarian Open 2020 final as their efforts to win a first-ever doubles title for India fell short.
In a match that saw power and speed at the forefront, Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran lost 5-11, 9-11, 11-8, 9-11 to the German pair of Benedikt Duda and Patrick Franziska.
An ominous start to the first game saw the Indian table tennis pair struggle with placement. The German duo took advantage of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran’s reach disadvantage on more than one occasion, while Sharath Kamal found the net enough times for the game culminate in a 5-11 loss.
Put on the back foot, the Indian table tennis duo stepped up their game. Sathiyan Gnanasekaran stayed on top of the bounce while Sharath Kamal stepped up his counter-attacks to get their German opponents to cross over and get out of position.
It seemed to be paying off, as Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran found themselves leading 9-7 near the end of the second game. However, pulling off his slower spin shots to perfection, Benedict Duda started to catch out his opponents and he doubled his side’s match advantage to 2-0 with a lovely spin shot down the line.
Smart play from Gnanasekaran-Kamal put the Indians in the driving seat and out to an 8-4 lead in the third game. However, with the German pair at the cutting edge of their craft, a couple of mistakes from Sharath on return closed the contest up 8-8.
That’s when a couple of long pushes with the forehand by Sharath brought the Indians within game point and Sathiyan did the honours with a perfect chop block to win the first game for his side.
The fourth game saw the intensity step up a notch, with some lightning-quick rallies playing out between the two sides. It looked like Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran might pull off another game win, as they led 7-5.
Unfortunately for Indian hopes, the Germans left their best for last.
With Duda quick on the pullbacks, and some beautiful backhand shots from Franziska saw the pair surge ahead to a 9-7 advantage before long. With perfect placement, they continued to find the Indian table tennis duo with their feet stuck, and upon reaching game point, Franziska caught out Gnanasekaran to win the game and take the title.
Up next on the ITTF World Tour is the Qatar Open. Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Harmeet Desai, among others, will be representing India at the event, in an effort to improve on their ranking ahead of the 2020 Olympics.
The Qatar Open gets underway on March 3, with the main draw to be held from March 5-8.
Beyond that, Indian table tennis players will be hoping to make up for January's disappointing showing at the Olympic team qualifiers, at the singles qualifiers in Bangkok, Thailand from April 6-12.