by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In the top half of the draw Sharath Kamal Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the no.7 seeds, beat English qualifiers, Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford (4-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8).
It is a result which not only has the significance of quarter-final place being booked in Stockholm but when looking ahead to next year; for both countries one of the most important events on the calendar, arguably even more important that the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships, is the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
Could today’s first round match be a gold medal match on Australia’s east coast?
“We lost the first game easily, in the second we were down 6-10, came back to 10-all and lost; with the Commonwealth Games ahead we didn’t want to lose. You can forget rankings, Paul and Liam form a very good partnership. Now I’ve got to change my flights, I booked a flight for tomorrow morning. No problem if Sathiyan pays!” Sharath Kamal Achanta
Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford most certainly form a most formidable combination; both are right handed but Paul Drinkhall is arguably stronger from the former, Liam Pitchford from the backhand. It’s almost the classic right and left combination. However, tonight they well be drowning their hopes in sorrow.
“We played them at the World Championships this year and won; today we were down 8-10 in the third and saved two match points before winning.” Sathiyan Ganasekaran.
Success for Sharath Kamal Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran from two games to nil in arrears, it was the same for Harmeet Desai and Soumyajit Ghosh, the no.8 seeds, against the host nation’s Pär Gerell and Jon Persson (6-11, 2-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-5). The only difference being they were not required to save match points.
“In the first game we were ahead 6-4 and lost, they played really well, they didn’t make mistakes. After losing the second game we made changes to the way we returned service; after winning the third game we were more confident.” Harmeet Desai
“I think from the third game onwards our short play was the key; we focused on the short game. In the fifth game we went ahead early in the match; at the change of ends we led 5-2, they were under pressure, they made mistakes.” Soumyajit Ghosh
Success for Sharath Kamal Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran; the door is very much open. At the quarter-final stage they meet qualifiers Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna and Portugal’s Diogo Carvalho; accepted they excelled in the qualification tournament but Stockholm is the first time they have ever been partners.
Disappointment for the host nation with the fall of Pär Gerell and Jon Persson; conversely Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Karlsson negotiated the opening round successfully. The no.5 seeds, eventually they overcome the French combination of Andrea Landrieu and Romain Lorentz (11-6, 11-5, 7-11, 12-14, 11-8).
Awaiting Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Karlsson is the Chinese combination of Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin, the no.2 seeds; they beat the partnership formed by Pavel Platonov of Belarus and Russia’s Kirill Skachkov (11-3, 6-11, 11-2, 11-7).
The reigning World champions next and they are hurt; last week in Magdeburg they lost to Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto and Yuto Kizukuri.
It may not be the best of times to face Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin; they have a point to prove.