Sathiyan Gnanasekaran ended his long wait for a national title with a convincing 4-2 victory over nine-time champion Sharath Kamal at the 82nd National Table Tennis Championships in Panchkula on Tuesday. Sathiyan had missed his missed opportunities against Sharath in the final at Cuttack a few years ago. The victory put Sharath, the current world No. 32, on a high pedestal.
Tuesday was another Sathiyan. The same was true for Sharath, who was unusual in losing momentum in Game 5 of the men’s singles final.
“The third time I was lucky, no more jinx. A huge burden on my shoulder,” Sathiyan said.
Before Cuttack, he had missed Pondicherry (2014) and Hyderabad (2015). Tuesday’s win also helped him take home Rs. 2.50 lakh as a cash prize.
Taking a 2-0 lead, Sathiyan made his intentions clear. But he knows his experienced opponent can change the course of the game in a matter of minutes. And Sharath struck, winning the next two games.
But, as we have seen so often, Sharath had his problems in the inability to land the ball. Converting those moments to his advantage, Sathiyan succeeded again and went 3-2.
As if he was at the right time, Sathiyan maintained his backhand blocks and forehands, pushing Sharath over the rearfoot as hard as he could.
Sharath allowed Sathiyan to take control of the game slowly but steadily. Equally important is giving all the credit to Sathiyan, the new champion, who rose through the ranks with a lot of hard work.
“It was a good game in the end, and he deserved to win,” said the brilliant Sharath.
He attributed the loss to lack of focus in Game 5 after leading 8-6.
“Two crucial mistakes have cost me dearly at this point. But Sathiyan let me slip in third to come back. It’s part of the game. I’m happy for him,” he added.
With age catching up with Sharath, he is not yet giving up the pursuit of his tenth title.
“I will definitely come back strong and aim,” he said.
Results: Final: G Sathiyan (PSPB) bt A Sharath Kamal (PSPB) 11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8. Semi-finals: A Sharath Kamal bt Manav Thakkar (PSPB) 11-8, 5-11, 14-12, 11-9, 9-11, 17-15; G. Sathiyan bt SFR Snehit (Telg) 13-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-5.
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