Tokyo: India’s leading player Sharath Kamal overcame a sluggish start to beat Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia in the men’s singles second round while the women challenge ended with Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee losing to their superior opponents at the Olympics here on Monday.

The 39-year-old Sharath struggled in the first game but pulled himself up just in time to win 2-11 11-8 11-5 9-11 11-6 11-9 in 49 minutes to set up a clash with defending champion Ma Long from China.

Later in the day, Manika’s impressive campaign in the women’s singles came to an end with a 0-4 loss to 10th seed Sofia Polcanova in the third round.

The star Indian player, who had stunned world number 32 on Sunday, did not have the game to challenge the attacking left-hander from Austria.

The only Indian left in the fray, Sharath, faces reigning Olympic champion Ma Long of China in the third round on Tuesday.

Arguably the greatest player of all time, Long has won every singles title in the sport, and is the reigning world champion as well.

However, with the way the 32-ranked Sharath played against his 59th-ranked opponent, it has given him immense confidence going into the round of 32 match against the mighty Chinese.

“I think it was one of the best matches I have played. The first game I don’t know what happened, I could not connect bat with ball, I was all over the place. From there I could lift myself up.

“My opponent expected a different Sharath but I surprised him with my backhand, which was fantastic. All the work I have done on my backhand for the last six month paid off.”

Sharath is known for his booming forehand winners but an improved backhand allowed him to finish from both flanks.

Since Ma Long will be playing his first match, Sharath sees an opening there.

“He is yet to play (with bye in the first two rounds). So, there will be pressure on him. Like I have said earlier, I have never felt better about my game. Hopefully, I can challenge him,” added Sharath.

Mukherjee was no challenge to 42-year-old Yu Fu as the China-born bested her in straight sets in the women’s singles second round.

Earlier, Sutirtha lost her second round match to Portugal’s Yu Fu in straight games to crash out of her maiden Olympics.

The 98th-ranked Indian who showed remarkable grit for a come-from-behind win over Sweden’s Linda Bergstrom, looked completely off-colour to lose 3-11 3-11 5-11 5-11 in a 23-minute affair against the world number 55.

She just managed two points on her serve to lose the first game in no time.

Sutirtha took a timeout when trailing 1-4 in the third game to talk to her coach Soum



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