Table Tennis: Indian pair of G Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai win World Contender title

Sathiyan and Desai defeated Emmanual Lebesson and Alexandre Cassin 11-9 4-11 11-9 11-6 in the summit clash to clinch their maiden title.

G Sathiyan paired up with Harmeet Desai to win the World Table Tennis Contender title; Credit: Twitter/@WTTGlobal

Indian Table Tennis duo of G Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai secured an impressive 3-1 win over Emmanual Lebesson and Alexandre Cassin in the summit clash to clinch the men’s doubles title at the WTT Contender Tunis on Saturday. Sathiyan and Desai beat the French duo 11-9 4-11 11-9 11-6. On Saturday, the first time they paired up in three years, and it was their first tour doubles title, both individually and together. The last time the duo played together, they won the rubber that secured the team gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. 

Since then, both of them have had varied paths in their individual table tennis journeys. Sathiyan rose to become the World No. 24 singles player (the best rank any Indian has ever achieved), and Desai, currently 73rd in the world.

“It is the first ever men’s doubles international title for myself individually and as a pair (with Desai). We are playing together after a long time and it’s fantastic to start off in a great manner with a gold medal in a pro tour title,” Sathyan told PTI.

The Indian duo pocketed the first game but they lost momentum and allowed the French pair to level the match. However Sathiyan and Desai regained the lead and then went on to win the fourth game convincingly and thereby the title.

“We’re keeping in mind the team events at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games next year and also the Paris Olympics,” Sathiyan told Indian Express.

“All these years, it has generally been (Achanta) Sharath Kamal and Harmeet who pair up for the doubles match. We thought that if Harmeet and I play some tournaments and the combination works, it’ll give the team another option of whom to play for the doubles matches.”

Sathiyan and Desai first met at a national event in 2001 and then became regulars in the national team a decade later.

“We’re good friends off court, and share a lot of data and analysis,” says the 28-year-old, currently ranked 37. “We know more about each other’s strengths and weaknesses than anybody else. And we have the belief in each other that if I’m saying something, he knows I’m not bluffing.”

The Indian pair had fashioned an impressive come-from-behind win against  Hungary’s Nandor Ecseki and Adam Szudi in the semi-final on Friday.

“Harmeet had tried a banana-serve at one point but it didn’t work. He seemed to be a bit rattled but I told him to keep at it. He did and it worked in our favour,” Sathiyan says.

“Harmeet also noticed that Nandor, who is a tricky left-hander, was banking on weak backhand returns from me on crucial points. He told me about it and said to step around the shot (convert it to a forehand) and hit a few strong returns.

“That’s the kind of input we could give each other only because we knew each other’s games so well.”

Now they will start playing together more often

“We both play close to the table and play fast,” Desai says. “When I attack, he can follow and when he attacks, I can keep up. It’s something that caught the Europeans by surprise.

“This was a good morale-booster. Sharath and Sathiyan had come up with the plan for us to play to test the combination. We were comfortable and it was easy for us. Feels really good to win the title.”

“It’ll help ease some pressure on Sharath so he doesn’t have to play every doubles match. At the same time, the opponents knew it’s always Sharath and Harmeet, now we can keep them guessing because there’s another combination in the mix,” Sathiyan adds.

Sportslumo Desk

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