In a riveting face-off between two Indian men’s doubles teams, the pair of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Sanil Shetty got the better of Manav Vikash Thakkar and Harmeet Desai to enter the final of the 2018 ITTF Challenge Thailand Open in Bangkok on Saturday.
Shetty and Sathiyan needed five games to prevail over their compatriots, 11-7, 5-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-3.
The Indian pair will take on the German combine of Tobias Hippler and Kilian Ort in the summit clash as they set their sights on the gold medal, thus continuing the Indian paddlers’ fine run from the Commonwealth Games.
The Germans beat Masataka Morizono and Kenta Tazoe of Japan 9-11, 14-12, 11-9, 11-7 in the other semi-final. Both the Japanese duo and the pair of Thakkar and Desai will have to remain content with the bronze medal.
The experienced pair of Sathiyan and Shetty started off the semi-final well but faced a fightback from Thakkar and Desai in the second game. Interestingly, Shetty and Desai had paired up to win the men’s doubles bronze at the Commonwealth Games. In contrast, this time they were on the opposite sides of the net.
The third game had many shifts of momentum. Desai and Thakkar stormed ahead to 5-3 only to see Sathiyan and Shetty wrest away the lead and go up to 8-6. The former then evened the score at 8-8 after which Sathiyan and Shetty held their nerves to eke out the third game 11-9.
Desai and Thakkar then completely outplayed their opponents in Game 4 with an 11-5 score as they stretched the duel to the decider. However, they could not keep that run going any further.
Sathiyan and Shetty made a strong start and stormed ahead to 5-1. Thakkar and Desai managed to grab only a couple of points after that as Sathiyan and Shetty booked their berth in the final.
Earlier in the day, Sathiyan and Shetty did not concede a game on their way to an 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 win over Malaysia’s Muhamad Ashrat Haiqal and Chee Fang Leong in the quarter-finals. Thakkar and Desai had to work harder for an 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9 win over Thailand’s Yanapong Panagitgun and Supakron Pankhaoyoy.
In men’s singles, the 18-year-old Thakkar was the best performing Indian. He reached the Round of 16 while the second seeded Sathiyan and the fourth seeded Desai were upset in the second round.