Sharath scores a Perfect 10, Sreeja begins her chapter
TTFI Event News 25th-Apr-2022
Shillong, April 25: Indian table tennis will eternally be thankful to A. Sharath Kamal for entertaining in his inimitable way. A gentleman to the core, always encouraging youngsters, the 39-year-old is not known for showing emotions. But the spectators and his admirers at the SAI Indoor Stadium saw that side of Sharath today when the return from G. Sathiyan went out, giving him the last point. Sharath dropped his racquet, jumped over the surround 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 83rd Senior National and Inter-State Table Tennis Championships and could well be the milestone for any aspirants to chase and emulate. He beat Sathiyan 4-3 in a thriller.
“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.
She achieved what she wanted and opened with a distinct advantage. But Mouma came back strong and levelled the score. The Telangana girl did well to slow down the game and surged ahead, game by game. At 6-9, both Mouma and she indulged in a fantastic rally and converted the fourth match point to go 10-6 up in the fifth game. Soon it became evident, and when Mouma pushed the ball out, Sreeja threw her arms up in a muted celebration. A hug with her long-time coach Somnath Ghosh and a few handshakes with her admirers and fellow players followed. But what would have gladdened and motivated young Sreeja was the motherly pat on her back from Mouma with a few appreciative words at the end of the match.
“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.
The gold medal here, and a spot on the CWG team list, should make the Telangana girl a future sellout. But what the 38-year-old Mouma did, after a three-year hibernation, would inspire a generation of players.
In the men’s singles semifinals, second seed G. Sathiyan took less than 25 minutes to beat left-handed Sanil Shetty 4-0 in a one-sided encounter. But it was not all that easy for top-seed Sharath Kamal against another left-hander, Manush Shah.
The Gujarat paddler opened well and troubled Sharath a lot. Manush kept his chances alive in the match after he levelled the score 2-2. But then Sharath, struggling in the fifth, won on the seventh game point to dispirit the Gujarat man. Leading 3-2, Sharath found the going good and wrapped up the match soon after.
RBI’s Sreeja Akula had to toil against teammate Ayhika Mukherjee in the first women’s singles semifinals. In the evenly poised match, the Hyderabad girl won the sixth game when Ayhika deuced. However, Mouma Das continued to surprise everyone and entered the final with a 4-1 verdict against PSPB’s Reeth Risyha.
Haryana and RSPB benefit
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.
D. Vishwa Trophy
Justice Gita Mittal, the chairperson of the Committee of Administrators (CoA), 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 during a road accident he met with before the Nationals, near here.
The CoA, in its wisdom, thought it appropriate to keep the young paddler’s memory alive and, as a fitting tribute to the departed soul, decided to give away the trophy to the most promising youngster during the nationals. The second-seeded Diya reached the semifinals and lost 3-4 to veteran Mouma Das, but not before showing her mettle.
Junior and Youth Nationals
The chairperson also took the opportunity to formally confirm the dates for the Junior and Youth Nationals to be held at Alleppey (Kerala) from June 17 to 23. She also praised the organisation of the Senior Nationals in a short time and chose the SAI venue as ideal for conducting national camps in the future. He also thanked chief minister Conrad Sangma for his government's wonderful support to the Meghalaya Table Tennis Association which conducted the nationals.
Men’s Singles: Final: A. Sharath Kamal (PSPB) bt G. Sathiyan (PSPB) 7-11, 12-10, 9-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-6; Semifinals: Sharath Kamal (PSPB) bt Manush Shah (Guj) 9-11, 11-5, 12-10, 7-11, 18-16, 11-8; G. Sathiyan (PSPB) bt Sanil Shetty (PSPB) 11-6, 11-4, 11-7, 11-5.
Women’s Singles: Final: Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Mouma Das (PSPB) 11-8, 11-13, 12-10, 11-8, 11-6; Semifinals: Akula Sreeja (RBI) Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI) 12-10, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 12-10; Mouma Das (PSPB) bt Reeth Rishya (PSPB) 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 11-5, 12-10.
Men’s Doubles: Final: 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: Final: Sreeja Akula/Ayhika Mukherjee (RBI) bt Takeme Sarkar/Prapti Sen (RSPB) 3-11, 11-9, 11-5, 12-10.
Mixed Doubles: Final: Akash Pal/Prapti Sen (RSPB) bt Soumyajit Ghosh/Suhana Saini (Har) 9-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7.