UTT 2019: Sharath Kamal unfurls vintage bag of tricks as Chennai Lions pip Goa Challengers to top league table
Achanta Sharath Kamal's win in the reverse singles proved crucial as in the reverse women's singles, Chennai Lions lost 1-2
While playing in the UTT, Sharath Kamal exults frequently, like a tennis player looking to rally the crowd on his side.
Chennai Lions won the tie 8-7 in the end and pipped Goa Challengers to move to the top of the League table
Sharath Kamal won four crucial points from his two matches to give his side the edge over Goa Challengers
Achanta Sharath Kamal is bound to arouse curiosity in anyone who sees him in action. He has close-cropped hair and yet, he wears a bandana – probably the only player to do so on tour. Former India cricketer Ashok Dinda’s headband comes to mind, but the similarities end there.
While playing in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT), Sharath Kamal exults frequently, like a tennis player looking to rally the crowd on his side.
On Wednesday, in the UTT tie between Sharath Kamal’s team Chennai Lions and the Goa Challengers, the 37-year-old Indian veteran gathered four crucial points from his mixed doubles and reverse singles matches to give his side the edge. Chennai Lions won the tie 8-7 in the end and pipped Goa Challengers to move to the top of the League table.
For his first match of the day, Sharath Kamal played the mixed doubles tie, partnering world number 26 Petrissa Solja against the Goa pair of Amalraj Anthony and Cheng-I-Ching. Solja’s patchy form – she had lost her singles tie against World No 8 Cheng-I-Ching 1-2 – was evident from the outset.
Her weak return had Sharath Kamal staring down the barrel of the opponent’s forehand. On one occasion, Ching hit a forehand down Sharath Kamal’s midriff. He couldn’t offer a shot, the ball lodging itself in the palm of his wrong hand. “Good Catch,” those in the media box almost blurted.
Chennai lost that game, 9-11, the narrow margin owing to their opponents not holding back and committing errors from their offensive approach.
The end-game interval saw Sharath Kamal putting on his mentor’s hat and talking to his partner while the team coach too, listened intently and nodded approvingly. Next game onwards, Solja would move across and take every shot on her forehand, the topspin laying a perfect foundation for Sharath Kamal to hit the winner. They were rewarded for their fearless play and won the game 11-6 before closing out the match, winning the third game on golden point to gain a lead in the tie.
In the reverse men’s singles, Amalraj, playing from the near side, gathered a string of points while Sharath Kamal struggled to keep the ball on the table. Amalraj prolonged the rallies, relishing the prospect of inviting a forehand from his opponent.
Sharath Kamal would give in to his instincts. The shots weren’t there though. He missed several times and it seemed that he was waiting to be bundled up in the first game, start afresh in the second. Sharath Kamal lost the game in a jiffy, the score reading 2-11.
The second game had him curbing his instincts and moving away from the table, biding his time with defensive shots until the forehand presented itself. However, Amalraj wouldn’t let up which meant that Sharath Kamal was left chasing the ball from both flanks, losing the point eventually.
His serve would do the trick as he was able to anticipate Amalraj’s return. He would get into position then and slot a forehand down Amalraj’s wrong side. He won the second game 11-9. In the third game, Amalraj, trailing 6-10, rallied back to level the scores at 10-10, leaving a golden point to decide the match and very possibly, the tie as well.
However, Sharath Kamal proved once again why there are slim pickings for his opponents on his serve. The golden point came and went bust for Amalraj and Goa Challengers as Sharath Kamal’s serve proved the lifeboat, leaving him ecstatic over his narrow escape.
In the post-match presser, Sharath lauded his opponent’s speed and elaborated on his changed game-plan after losing the first game 2-11. “I realised that he’s moving very fast like always, so there would have been no chance for me if I tried to play him while standing near the table,” Sharath Kamal said.
Women’s Singles: Petrissa Solja lost to Cheng I-Ching 1-2 (10-11, 2-11, 11-6)
Men’s Singles: Tiago Apolonia bt Alvaro Robles 2-1 (11-5, 2-11, 11-7)
Mixed Doubles: Sharath Kamal & Petrissa Solja bt Amalraj Anthony & Cheng I-Ching 2-1 (9-11, 11-6, 11-10)
Men’s Singles: Sharath Kamal bt Amalraj Anthony 2-1 (2-11, 11-9, 11-10)
Women’s Singles: Madhurika Patkar lost to Archana Kamath 1-2 (9-11, 10-11, 11-8)
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