Indian table-tennis stars Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Soumyajit Ghosh have recorded a historic first for the sport in the nation by becoming the first pair from India to reach the finals of an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Major Series event in the men's doubles category.
The duo entered the final of the Asarel Bulgaria Open and were up against the top-seeded pairing of Ueda Jin and Yoshimura Maharu. The Indians gave a pretty good account of themselves in the final, running their opponents close and stretching it to the full five games.
The first game was won by the Indian pair 13-11, before the Japanese duo struck back and took the next two games 11-7 and 11-4. However, the Indians won the next game 11-6, before Ueda and Yoshimura closed out the match at 11-5.
India's male players have made steady progress on the international circuit and as a result, they recently rose to the world number 15 spot in the team rankings that were announced this month.
They had begun the previous year seven rungs below at 22nd place and in a year-and-a-half, they have broken into the top 15 in the world. These rankings are of supreme importance as well, due to the fact that they help secure a direct spot in the World Team Championships, which will be held next year in Sweden.
Also, it is for the first time that four Indians are placed in the top 100 of the world rankings. Achanta Sharath Kamal leads the way at 46th spot, while following him are Harmeet Desai (78th), Soumyajit Ghosh (86th) and Gnanasekaran (90th).
Two other pairs from India contested the Round of 16 clashes at the eve, including the duo of Harmeet Desai and Arjun Ghosh. They lost their pre-quarterfinal encounter in straight sets against the Japanese team of Jin Ueda and Maharu Yoshimura, with the scoreline reading 11-5 11-3 11-4.
The next Indian pair in contention was Amalraj Anthony and Sanil Shetty. They won their opening match by an overall scoreline of 3-2. The Indians won the first two games 11-6 11-6, before their Turkish opponents Ibrahim Gunduz and Abdullah Pigenler won the next two 11-5 11-8. In the decider, Anthony and Shetty prevailed, repeating the 11-6 scoreline.
In the quarters, they were up against Bulgarian duo Teodor Alexandrov and Denislav Kodjabashev, who were dispatched 3-0 in straight sets. The scoreline read 11-8 11-9 11-4.
The semifinal was an all-Indian affair as the pairing of Ghosh and Gnanasekaran prevailed comfortably at 11-3 12-10 11-8.