A. Sharath Kamal, the veteran paddler, regained the table tennis men’s singles gold at the Commonwealth Games after 16 long years with a convincing win against England’s Liam Pitchford in the final.
Riding on his trademark brand of aggressive table tennis, Sharath overcame his old nemesis Pitchford 11-13, 11-7, 11-2, 11-6, 11-8 in an exhilarating final to end what has been an ideal campaign for himself and the Indian men’s contingent.
Moments before Sharath took to the show court, G. Sathiyan had ensured India for the first time had two paddlers on the podium in a singles event at the Commonwealth Games. Sharath’s stunning show meant he stood at the top of the podium for the third time in Birmingham.
Despite losing the opening game in tie-break, never once did Sharath appear to be losing control of the match. Besides leaving Pitchford flummoxed with his variation of serves, Sharath also ensured he used the width of the table much better.
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Having earned a healthy lead in the fourth game, leading 2-1, a three-point streak meant Pitchford closed the gap with his powerful winners. A time-out at 6-5 meant Sharath returned with a change in tactic and closed the game out.
At 3-1, the writing was on the wall and Sharath scripted history in style, converting his second match point. He sprinted to the gallery and gave his younger brother Rajath a huge hug. Besides being his personal coach and performance analyst, Rajath - a former international paddler - also doubles up as Sharath’s sparring partner whenever required.
Having bagged the men’s team championship gold last week and mixed doubles gold partnering Sreeja Akula on Sunday night, Sharath thus became the first Indian paddler to win three gold medals at a CWG edition. He surpassed the previous record of two gold medals - jointly held by himself in 2006 and Manika Batra in 2018.
Earlier in the afternoon, Sathiyan overcame Paul Drinkhall in a nail-biting bronze medal playoff to win his maiden singles medal at the Commonwealth Games. Sathiyan thus ended the tournament with a gold, silver and bronze medal each.
India’s paddlers ended the Commonwealth Games with seven medals, including a gold and a bronze by Bhavina Patel and Sonal Patel, respectively, in para-table tennis.
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