Shillong, Apr 25: Sharath Kamal came from 3 games to 1 down to win the final of the men’s singles at the 83rd Senior National Table Tennis Championship 4-3 over G Sathiyan at the SAI Indoor Stadium here today.
Kamal has always entertained in his inimitable way. A gentleman to the core, always encouraging youngsters, the 39-year-old is not known for showing emotion. But the spectators and his admirers saw a different side today when the return from Sathiyan went out, giving him the last point. Sharath dropped his paddle, jumped over the surrounding barrier and ran around the arena in elation. The din raised by the crowd’s clapping and whistling took quite a while to die down.
Finally, Sharath had achieved the impossible – scoring a perfect ten – that will remain etched in the memory of everyone present at the stadium and could well be the milestone for any aspirants to chase and emulate.
“Tenth is always special, and I will cherish this moment as I did with my first title,” said Sharath. Asked if the milestone can be surmounted, Sharath said: “Records are meant to be broken but might take some time as happened with me when I surpassed Kamlesh Mehta’s eight-time national record,” said the gentle giant.
As for the game plan, he kept it simple. Despite conceding a 3-1 lead to Sathiyan, Sharath had the tenacity and the calmness to overcome Sathiyan, point by point. Once he levelled 3-3 and surged into a 4-0 lead in the decider, the match went only one way. With the crowd fully behind him, Sharath didn’t get unduly hassled even after Sathiyan restored parity at 4-4 and 5-all. After that, he allowed just one point to his rival and went from strength to strength.
In the women’s singles final, Sreeja Akula wore down Mouma Das 4-1 to win her maiden national crown. The first woman from Telangana to become the National champion, Sreeja’s talent was never in doubt. The girl, who won her first National Ranking title in 2019 during the North Zone championships at Sonipat and followed it up with another crown at Thane, has come a long way. Last year, she lost out on the national title to eventual winner Manika Batra at Panchkula.
Today, when she entered the arena, the Panchkula outcome must have occupied her mind, particularly against five-time national champion Mouma. But the 24-year-old RBI paddler put those thoughts on the back burner and responded stroke for stroke. To counter the experienced Mouma, she returned to using the long-pimpled Qing rubber to control the speed.
“A dream come true occasion for me, and the week-long camp at Chennai (with Sharath, Manav Thakkar and others) has yielded the desired results,” she said, the WTT Doha doubles bronze medal winner.
Haryana, RBI and the Railways shared the gold medals on offer in doubles events. In the all-Haryana men’s doubles final, Sourav Saha and Wesely Do Rosario defeated teammates Soumyajit Ghosh and Jubin Kumar 3-2.
In the women’s doubles, RBI’s Sreeja Akula and Ayhika Mukerhjee combined well to outsmart RSPB’s Takeme Sarkar and Prapti Sen to win the title 3-2, and in the mixed event final, Akash Pal and Prati Sen beat Haryana’s Soumyajit Ghosh and Suhana Saini 3-1.
Present on the occasion of the final day was Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and Justice Gita Mittal, the chairperson of the Committee of Administrators (CoA).
Justice Mittal handed over the D Vishwa Trophy, instituted in the memory of promising Tamil Nadu paddler Vishwa Deenadayalan, to Diya Chitale, the junior who showed most promise during the nationals. Vishwa had died in a road accident on his way to Shillong.
Justice Mittal praised the Meghalaya Table Tennis Association for its organisation of the senior nationals in a short time and chose the SAI venue as ideal for conducting national camps in the future. She also thanked the Chief Minister for his government’s support to the MTTA which conducted the nationals.
Sangma also remembered Vishwa in his speech and said he prays for strength for the late paddler’s family and table tennis fraternity.
He also congratulated the MTTA for pulling off a successful event at short notice.
Sharath also wanted a few words where he dedicated his record-extending title to Vishwa, a youngster who he had mentored over the last couple of years.
“I thank the CoA for instituting a trophy in Vishwa’s name. The passion he had for the sport was immeasurable and was beyond my own,” the visibly emotional Sharath said.
Today’s finals results:
Men’s singles: A. Sharath Kamal (PSPB) bt G. Sathiyan (PSPB) 7-11, 12-10, 9-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-6
Women’s singles: Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Mouma Das (PSPB) 11-8, 11-13, 12-10, 11-8, 11-6
Men’s doubles: Sourav Saha/Wesley Do Rosaria (Har) bt Soumyajit Ghosh/Jubin Kumar (Har) 11-5, 4-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8
Women’s doubles: Sreeja Akula/Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI) bt Takeme Sarkar/Prapti Sen (RSPB) 3-11, 11-9, 11-5, 12-10
(Meghalaya Table Tennis Association photo)