Nanjing: Indian paddler Abhishek Yadav, playing a marathon fifth game, defeated Malaysia's Dunley Foo to enter the semi-finals of the men's singles table tennis competitions, thus ensuring himself at least a bronze medal at the ongoing second Asian Youth Games here Monday.
The Indian disposed of Foo 4-1 (11-6, 11-5, 15-13, 5-11, 18-16) in 41 minutes, which included two games that tested Yadav's patience. He will now meet the top-seeded Chinese Zhendong Fan in the semi-finals later in the evening. The Chinese beat Taipei's Chia-Hung Sun in straight games.
With no play-off, both the losing semi-finalists will be awarded bronze medals.
"I am completely drained out. Two big games, particularly the last one, sapped my energy. But I held my nerve to go past him (Foo)," said Yadav.
Asked about his opponent in the semi-finals, Yadav said he was wary of the Chinese. "I will play to my strength and let's see," he said.
Yadav had the measure of his rival in the first two games, but in the third from 9-7 allowed the Malaysian come back and level the score first at 9-9. From there, the see-saw battle continued with none giving a quarter to the other.
The Malaysian went 12-11 up before Yadav caught up with him to make it 13-13. That was also the end of resistance from Foo as the Indian took the next two points to go 3-0 up -- the third game taking full 10 minutes.
However, the Malaysian took the fourth to keep himself in the match. Then the real marathon began and Yadav, leading 6-4, in the fifth game allowed Foo to take charge. The Malaysian surged ahead to 10-8 but Yadav on his serve equalled the score to breathe easy.
At 16-all the picture seemed gloomy for the Indian as Foo was not only returning well but was catching his rival on the wrong foot. Then came the turning point as Yadav served and returned well to go up 17-16 and waited to cash in on Foo's mistake when he served next to take the game and match in 12 minutes.
Team manager Jayesh Acharya was happy for Yadav.
"It was a crucial game (fifth) and what impressed me was the way Abhishek won those crucial points," said Acharya. "We came to the Games with two paddlers and am happy we will not go empty-handed," he remarked.