India's table tennis star Achanta Sharath Kamal cruised into the quarter-finals of the India Open here on Friday, even as top seed Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany made an almost dramatic entry into the tournament.
Sharath, World No. 59, unleashed a barrage of fierce forehand drives to bamboozle World No. 21 Yuto Muramatsu of Japan in a prime time contest.
He jumped to a quick 3-0 (11-8, 11-7, 11-4) before he ran into a fight.
Down 0-3 in the fourth game, he restored parity and then streaked ahead to 8-6. He even created three match points but somehow contrived to lose all of them. A couple of drives into the net gave Muramatsu his first game.
Sharath, however, recovered his poise quickly and wrapped up the next game 11-5 to annex the match.
Even as Sharath was having a blast, compatriot Sanil Shetty was putting up a brilliant fight against Robert Gardos of Austria. He, however, couldn't see it through and despite coming back from a 0-1 deficit and taking a comforting 2-1 lead he ended up on the losing side. Gardos took the next three games to seal his place in the quarter - finals.
Earlier, World No. 5 Ovtcharov emphatically won both his matches here at the Thyagaraj Sports Complex to underline his class and pedigree even in this star-studded field. He displayed exquisite touch in his first outing itself, comprehensively beating Abdulaziz Al Abbad of Saudi Arabia 4-0 (11-3, 11-5, 11-4, 11-2). He was equally dominant in his next match, against Joao Geraldo of Portugal, barely breaking into a sweat for a 4-0 (11-3, 11-3, 11-5, 11-4) victory.
Japan's 14-year-old sensation Harimoto Tomokazu continued his good run in the tournament, staving off a strong challenge from his compatriot Asuka Sakai and breaking into the quarter-finals. Harimoto, the current junior world champion, came out attacking and claimed the first two games 11-9, 11-9.
Asuka, who was crowned the Under-21 champion just two days back, showed his mettle to make a strong comeback in the third game. Harimoto won the fourth 11-7 but lost the momentum in the fifth, losing 11-13 in an intense duel.
Harimoto, however, was back in his elements in the sixth, attacking and screaming his way to a comfortable 11-7 triumph.
Despite the Sharath cheer, it wasn't such a great day for India — all its others contenders fell by the wayside against higher ranked players.
Gnanasekaran Sathiyan put up the most valiant fight in the Round of 32, losing to ninth seeded Masataka Morizono of Japan in a seven-game thriller.
Young Archana Kamath, who earlier in the day beat compatriot Ayhika Mukherjee 4-2 to qualify for the pre-quarters, too pushed sixth seeded Sakura Mori of Japan to the hilt before crashing out.
Archana displayed great skill and determination, and a strong offensive game as well, but ran out of ideas against her more experienced opponent.