Jaipur: Sharath Kamal will at least finish sixth in the 28th Asian Cup table tennis tournament after he finally found a way to beat nemesis and world no.15 Gao Ning at the Sawai Mansingh Indoor Stadium here on Saturday.
Sharath, who had disposed of two top-20 players yesterday, defeated Ning 11-7 4-11 11-8 12-10 11-5 to add to his giant-killing run in the premier continental competition.
With his first win over the Singaporean after 'countless' losses, Sharath also put the disappointment of his defeat to world no.5 Jun Mizutani behind.
Later today, he plays Korea's Kim Minseok in the battle for fifth position in the 16-player men's singles field.
Sharath had lost to the same opponent to finish sixth in the tournament's 2014 edition in Wuhan China.
The Indian was more relieved than happy to find success against Ning, who looked far from his best today.
"I have lost count of how many times Gao Ning beat me but today I finally found a way to get past him. I was so fed up with this losing trend that once I had asked a German coach "when will I beat Gao Ning?"
"His reply was that 'you keep it reserve for a special day'. Overall I think I played really well and to be honest he looked a bit under prepared," said 49th-ranked Sharath.
The two-time CWG gold medallist romped home after winning the crucial fourth game to go 3-1 up. The contest was levelled had Sharath did not fight back to take four straight points from 8-10.
It was a commendable effort from the Chennai-born paddler, a few hours after his comprehensive loss to Mizutani.
By Sharath's own admission, he could not have played any better than he did against his superior Japanese opponent.
Mizutani kept attacking from both flanks to which Sharath did not have any answer. He foxed the Indian with a variety of serves and hammered winners, both cross court and down the line, with pinpoint precision.
Sharath got his only chance in the second game, where he was leading 6-1 but a couple of unforced errors and gutsy play allowed the 25-year-old from Shizuoka to reduce the deficit.
Eventually, Mizutani clinched the game on his second game point before racing to a 11-3 14-12 11-2 11-6 win.
"I don't think I played badly, he was just too good for me. He did not allow me to play my game, which is forehand dominated. He showed me he is in a different league," said Sharath, who had beaten world no.8 and no.16 to reach the quarterfinals yesterday.