LINZ (AUSTRIA): After a pulse-pounding win, a reality check. In the dying embers of natural light here on Thursday, G Sathiyan burst to life, fist-pumping like a mad man on Table 4 at the IITF Austrian Open in Linz. He was celebrating like a footballer, who had scored a winner in the last minute of extra time. The 25-year-old Indian had every reason to do so, having accounted for World No 16, Marcos Freitas — a former World No 7, who reached the pre-quarters of the Worlds last year. It was one of the greatest wins of his career and Sathiyan, an emotional, heart-on-his-sleeves kind of competitor, let go of his emotions.
On Friday, he was much more subdued as World No 2 Xu Xin beat him 11-1, 11-7, 7-11, 11-2, 11-4 to advance to the quarterfinals. Xin, member of the Chinese team which won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016, was operating at a different level. The 28-year-old ran away with the opening stanza before consolidating his advantage. Sathiyan staged a fightback in the third but Xin nipped it in the bud with a barrage of winners in the next two games.
That disappointment notwithstanding, the Asian Games men’s team bronze medallist should take heart from his performances. This is one of his best ever outings at a Tour event. “Very proud. The best win. Performance of a lifetime. Fire emoji.” These were some of the words or symbols the TN lad used in the immediate aftermath of his stunning win. When Sathiyan uploaded the winning moment on his Twitter handle, the World No 35 explained the wild celebrations. “The excitement behind the loud roar says it all,” he wrote. “Check out the winning part against the legendary Portuguese player and WR 16 Marcos Freitas in an epic battle which lasted for over an hour.”
The other reason behind Sathiyan’s excitement was the stage — Austrian Open is a Platinum event (one of the more prestigious meets on the calendar) where the world’s best take part. In fact, 59 of the top 60 men’s players signed up for this tournament. “It was a wonderful victory and I am very satisfied with the way I performed,” Sathiyan had told ITTF after the encounter. “I am lost for words. It’s the best win of my career so far but there is still a long way to go.”
He may have gone down to a superior player but getting the chance to face off against the likes of Xin is a sign of progress. Road to second round: Qualifiers: 1st round: bt Chuqin Wang 11-8, 12-14, 11-8, 11-7, 18-16. 2nd round: bt Lubomir Pistej 13-11, 12-10, 13-11, 12-10. 3rd round: bt Sanguen Jeong 6-11, 11-13, 11-3, 11-8, 11-6, 11-6. Main draw: 1st round: bt Marcos Freitas 4-11, 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7.