New Delhi: Sharath Kamal kept the local interest alive with a heart-stopping win over longtime rival Paul Drinkhall to enter the men's singles semi-finals at the ITTF World Tour India Open in New Delhi on Saturday.
As expected, the match between the familiar foes lasted the full distance with Kamal holding his nerve to clinch the enthralling quarter-final on his second match point. The contest was more of a tactical battle and therefore was not of the highest quality, something both players admitted afterwards.
Trailing 5-8 in the seventh and deciding game, it seemed the match was out of Kamal's grasp but he bounced back brilliantly to make it 9-9. He earned his first match point with a cracking backhand before Drinkhall made it 10-10. The Indian went for the kill on his second match point, a sizzling down the line forehand, leaving the Englishman as a mere spectator.
"It was very much a tactical battle. We both were constantly thinking after every point and you could see it from the outside. Very relieved to have got over the line. Playing Paul is never easy," summed up Sharath after the 11-4, 10-12, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 13-11 victory.
World number 42 Drinkhall had come into the tournament at the back of a good season and is ranked 20 places higher than the Indian in the latest world rankings.
Kamal had last beaten Drinkhall at the 2014 Commonwealth Games before losing the bronze medal play-off to his English teammate Liam Pitchford.
Kamal will not get much recovery time ahead of his semi-final against reigning Junior World Champion Tomokazu Harimoto scheduled later tonight.
Harimoto took time to get into his stride against Robert Gardos before roaring his way to a 4-11, 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 11-6 win over the Austrian.
"I never thought I would get his far in the competition," said the 14-year-old, who is ranked 69th in the world.
Earlier, top seed and world number five Dimitrij Ovtcharov was stretched to the limit by 39th-ranked Yuya Oshima. Leading 3-1, the German was set for a straightforward win before the Japanese made a remarkable recovery to take the match into the seventh and deciding game. Eventually, luck and experience came to the rescue of Ovtcharov, who got away with a 7-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8, 4-11, 6-11, 12-10 win.
His semi-final opponent will be Koki Niwa, also from Japan. The 19th-ranked left-hander defeated Jiang Tianyi of Hong Kong 11-9, 10-12, 11-1, 11-8, 11-8.
Men's singles quarters:  Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) Beat  Yuya Oshima (JPN)- 7-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8, 4-11, 6-11, 12-10,  Koki Niwa (JPN) Beat Tianyi Jiang (HKG) - 11-9, 10-12, 11-1, 11-8, 11-8,  Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN) Beat Robert Gardos (AUT) 4-11, 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11] Sharath Kamal Achanta (IND) Beat  Paul Drinkhall (ENG) - 11-4, 10-12, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 13-11. Women’s singles quarterfinals:  Wing Nam NG (HKG) Beat  Georgina Pota (HUN) - 11-9, 11-6, 12-10, 8-11, 11-3,  Sakura Mori (JPN) vs  Tze Wing Mak (HKG) - 11-6, 13-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7, (1) Doo Hoi Kem beat Jiang Huajun 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-8, 13-11; Ekholm Matilda beat Shao Jieni 11-8, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5. P
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Updated Date: Feb 18, 2017 23:50:53 IST