On the face of it, there is a massive difference between Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manav Thakkar. 37-year-old Kamal is ranked 32nd in the world, has nine senior national titles, a singles title on the senior tour, eight medals at Commonwealth Games, 17 appearances at the World Championships (first in 2003) and a Padma Shri. On the other side, Thakkar is just 19, he is ranked 160th in the world, has four titles but in the junior circuit and has made a solitary appearance at the World Championships earlier in the year. Despite the 18-year age gap and the significant difference in experience, the junior paddler took the game to his senior and came one point away from a win.
Thakkar, representing U Mumba, and Kamal, leading things for Chennai Lions, in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT), produced a scintillating game to keep the fans on the edge of their seats at the Thyagraj Stadium in the capital. In the end, U Mumba ran out 9-6 winners having led the tie 4-1 at one point.
In the fourth rubber of the five-match tie, Thakkar started slowly, appeared nervous, but as things went on, he found his element. The lanky fifth-ranked Indian took the game to Kamal in the second game — having lost the first 7-11. Manav didn't buckle under pressure and went on the attack to take the second game 11-5.
It was in the third game, however, that things reached a fever pitch. Manav continued his attacking approach and was rewarded for it with Sharath suddenly looking uncomfortable and cornered. A large contingent of volunteers in the stands chanted 'Manav, Manav' and he rode on this support. He led 8-5 before Kamal levelled matters at 8-8. The pressure and will to win showed in Kamal's body language as he tried to pump himself up with yells of 'Yes' and 'C'mon' after the leveller.
Kamal had the opportunity to close it out at 10-9 but sent his backhand long and at 10-10, it was all to play for with the golden point. After a nervous rally, Thakkar's backhand sailed long and Kamal let out a huge roar. It could well have been one of relief considering the way he started.
Things were locked at 6-6 at this stage and it was down to the women's singles fixture featuring Hong Kong's Doo Hoi Kem (U Mumba) and India's Madhurika Patkar (Chennai Lions). The duo went back and forth in the opening game but it was Kem who took it 11-10 for a 7-6 advantage.
The subsequent games were straightforward and U Mumba ran out 9-6 winners in the end.
Women's singles: Sutirtha Mukherjee (U Mumba) beat Petrissa Solja (Chennai Lions) - 11-7, 11-10, 5-11
Men's singles: Kirill Gerassimenko (U Mumba) beat Tiago Apolonia (Chennai Lions) - 11-10, 11-9, 5-11
Mixed Doubles: Manav Thakkar/Doo Hoi Kem (U Mumba) lost to Sharath Kamal/Petrissa Solja (Chennai Lions) - 8-11, 8-11, 11-7
Men's singles: Manav Thakkar (U Mumba) lost to Sharath Kamal (Chennai Lions) - 7-11, 11-5, 10-11
Women's singles: Doo Hoi Kem (U Mumba) beat Madhurika Patkar - 11-10, 11-7, 11-5
Updated Date: Jul 26, 2019 22:02:07 IST