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TT: Samsonov crashes out of ITTF India Open; Indians Sharath, Harmeet move up

Asuka Sakai of Japan
Asuka Sakai of Japan
World number 8 Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus became the first big seed to crash out of the Seamaster ITTF World Tour India Open, dramatically losing to the new Under-21 men’s champion Asuka Sakai of Japan in straight games at the Thyagaraj Stadium here today.
 
Amazingly, Asuka has not even made the cut into the world rankings yet.
 
India’s table tennis star Achanta Sharath Kamal began his campaign in the tournament in style, romping to a 4-1 victory over Can Akkuzu of France in his opening round.
 
He unleashed an impressive range of shots to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd to join his young compatriot Harmeet Desai in the Round of 16. The World No. 59 endured a hiccup in the third game after winning the first three rather consummately  11-5, 11-8, 11- 4. But he asserted his dominance in the fifth again to ensure there were no more anxious moments.
 
It was a heartbreaking day for Indian women, however, even though two of them managed to sneak into the next round: the country’s main hopes, World No. 91 Manika Batra and newly crowned national champion Madhurika Patkar, tumbled out of the $150,000 tournament almost without a fight.
Achanta Sharath Kamal of India
Achanta Sharath Kamal of India
 
Manika, of course, lost to her country woman Mousumi Paul 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 4-11, 8-11 but Madhurika suffered an agonising defeat against Hong Kong’s Wai Yam Soo, capitulating 11-9, 6-11, 2-11, 4-11, 9-11. 
 
Joining Mousumi in the pre-quarters was Suthirtha Mukherjee who got the better of another Indian player Anikta Das 11-5, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9. 
 
The biggest heartbreak was suffered by young Krittwika Roy. She was inches away from registering the biggest victory of her career against the fifth seeded Huajun Jiang of Hong Kong. After taking her to the decider, she enjoyed as many five match points but could not capitalise on any of them. 
 
Earlier in the day, Harmeet started off confidently against World No. 77 Tristan. He attacked, both with his backhand and forehand, and wrapped up the first three games (11-4, 11-6, 11-9) in under 20 minutes. He seemed to be on his way to the next round at 8-7 in the fourth but he let it slip away from him.
 
As he eased the pressure, the Frenchman defended adroitly and attacked Harmeet’s backhand to win the next three games (11-9, 11-9, 11-7) and restore parity. Harmeet looked a little anxious as the deciding game unfolded. He slipped to 5-6 to face the prospect of a bitter defeat after being in such a dominant position. But then, he reeled off the next 6 points to seal his place in the next round.
 
“At 3-up, I guess I became a little complacent. Tristan started taking more risks and I was pushed on the defensive, losing crucial points,” Harmeet said after the match. “In the decider, I realized I had to take more risks. I pressed on the pedal which paid dividends and I eventually won the match,” he added.
 
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