Sharath Kamal won a close five-game battle against Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek minutes before G. Sathiyan lost to Aruna Quadri in the opening round of the World Table Tennis Contender event in Doha on Wednesday.

Sharath, ranked 32nd, twice led by a game but still had to go the distance for a 17-15, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 triumph.

Sathiyan, ranked 37th, found World No. 21 Quadri too hot to handle. The Nigerian won 11-7, 11-4, 11-8.

Sharath’s roller-coaster ride was laced with long, exciting rallies and plenty of action. In the initial phase of the marathon opening game, Sharath faltered with his serves and also when receiving them. To his credit, Sharath focused on getting some rhythm, battled back from 7-10 to save three game-points and led 11-10. He squandered four successive game-points before Sirucek moved to 15-14. Undeterred, Sharath kept attacking and won the next three points to seize the game.

In the second, Sharath stayed ahead until 8-6 but the fighting Czech produced four straight points and capitalised on his second game-point to level the match 1-1.

If Sharath dominated the third game, Sirucek returned the favour in the fourth to force a decider. Sharath jumped to leads of 5-1, 7-2 and 9-5 but the lanky Czech clawed back to 9-10 before netting a backhand on the third match-point.

The highest-ranked Indian next plays World No. 7 Yun-Ju Lin of Chinese Taipei. Sharath won their first encounter in the team championship of the 2018 Asian Games but lost to him in the 2019 Asia Cup.

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