Sharath bags record-equalling eighth National table tennis crown

Sharath Kamal defeated Anthony Amalraj 6-11, 11-6, 15-13, 11-8, 11-7 in the final.

Sharath Kamal with his National crown.   -  Manob Chowdhary

A. Sharath Kamal rolled over Petroleum Sports Promotion Board compatriot Anthony Amalraj to pocket a record-equalling eighth men's title in the 79th 11Sports National Table Table Tennis Championship, which concluded at Ranchi’s Mega Sports Complex on Tuesday. Sharath thus equalled Kamlesh Mehta's tally of eight titles between 1982-83 and 1993-94.

Immediately after finishing the 30-minute duel in five games with a trademark forehand top-spin, Sharath hugged familiar foe Amalraj, and then turned around for another tight hug with his younger brother Rajath, who was advising him from the sidelines. The 35-year-old veteran, who had won his first national crown 15 years ago, then headed straight towards the dais to receive a warm hug from Mehta, now a national selector.

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“He was the first one I hugged after exiting the arena. I was sure he was as happy for me as anyone else,” an elated Sharath told Sportstar. “But I sincerely feel me doing it for eight times is much easier than him achieving it back them. Since I was way ahead than the competition during my peak, I won many Nationals where I just had to go through the motions. He had to overcome tough competition from multiple players who were at the same level.”

‘Long time due’

Mehta was happy to have witnessed the history from the hall. “That I could watch it live made it special for both of us. It was a long time due that the record had to be equalled. That Sharath managed to achieve the feat is fitting,” said Mehta.

Sutirtha Mukherjee reacts after winning a point during her title-winning campaign on Tuesday. Photo: Manob Chowdhary


Having accounted for in-form G. Sathiyan in the semifinals earlier in the day, Sharath took his time to settle against Amal. Sharath let Amal dominate the opening game but once he had eyes set, maintained a clear lead in the second to level the match. Leading 2-1, the long rally at 3-2 in the fourth game which eventually went in Sharath's favour seemed to have sealed the deal before he completed the win 6-11, 11-6, 15-13, 11-8, 11-7.

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Sharath thus also retained the National crown, which he had regained last year after a six-year gap. “Last year I wanted it more badly since I hadn't won it for a while. This year, it was more like a routine. That pressure of not wanting to lose so much also worked in my favour,” said Sharath. “I feel I am back at my best and in a good shape for the Commonwealth Games. I hope I can translate this form and win the Commonwealth gold.”

Meanwhile, West Bengal's Sutirtha Mukherjee saved a match-point against PSPB's Manika Batra in the women's final to win her maiden National championship. Mukherjee won 11-4, 11-13, 11-6, 5-11, 11-2, 9-11, 12-10.

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