India table tennis player Sathiyan Gnanasekaran beat Paul Drinkhall of England 4-3 to win the men’s singles bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham on Monday.
G Sathiyan was leading 3-0 (11,9, 11,3, 11-5) and looked set to finish it off in the fourth game, before Drinkhall staged a turnaround.
Drinkhall started inviting Sathiyan for the smash to test his patience and hand-eye coordination. The Indian fell for the trap, and unforced errors helped Drinkhall score easy points. The world No. 74 clinched the next three games (11-8, 11-9, 12-10) to add thrill to the contest.
The 35th-ranked G Sathiyan had the last laugh as he maintained composure to win the final game 11-9.
"That was really, really hard work. I cruised [to 3-0 up] in the match and credit to Paul, he started to play much better and I became a little passive," Sathiyan admitted. "I had so many chances, I would have been sleepless for a week if I had lost that.
"I so, so badly wanted this singles medal. It's a match I will never forget," the Indian added.
The Indian called the shots for the large part of the game while the Englishman struggled to counterattack. Sathiyan clinched the first game 11-9 after 12 rallies. Drinkhall led 4-3 for a split second before Sathiyan unleashed his beast mode to surge ahead.
Sathiyan earned seven consecutive points in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. Drinkhall's feet did not move as fast as Sathiyan, and he had no answers to the attacking backhand shots.
Sathiyan changed the pace of the rallies and added a bit of top spin to unsettle Drinkhall in the third game. The English TT player earned two quick points by resorting to chop and spin-serve but could not turn the tide.
"At 7-1 [in the last game] I wanted to finish it [but] he was getting every ball back. But at 9-9 my serve worked well - and what a way to win it," Sathyan pointed out.
G Sathiyan entered the bronze medal match after losing against Liam Pitchford 4-1 (11-5, 4-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9) in the semi-final.
The 29-year-old from Chennai, a Tokyo Olympian, made his CWG debut in 2018. He was part of the men's table tennis team that won the gold medal.
The contingent defended their gold in the ongoing edition, and along with Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran also won the silver in men's doubles event at CWG for the second time.