Sharath Kamal: 'I played my best in the Oman Open final'

After winning the Oman Open title, Sharath Kamal says the coronavirus impact has put a big question mark on Olympic qualifications.

Sharath Kamal

Indian paddler Sharath Kamal in action at the Oman Open on Sunday.   -  ITTF

Sharath Kamal never ceases to surprise. At 37, Sharath he provided another evidence to undiminished hunger to win as he claimed the Oman Open title in Muscat on Sunday. The surprise triumph ended a 10-year international title-drought following his victory in the 2010 Egypt Open.

On Monday, World No. 38 Sharath spoke at length to Sportstar on how well he played to win in a strong field and the impact of coronavirus on the process of qualification to the Olympic Games.

“Winning on pro tour is fantastic. Actually, I didn’t think about winning the Oman Open when I went into it. But looking at the draw looking and my form, I thought... okay, I should be able to make it to the semifinal at least, probably, even to the final.

READ: Good win before Olympic qualifiers

“In the final, I thought playing (World No. 26, top seed from Portugal) Marcos (Freitas) will be quite difficult because he’s been really in very good shape and doing very well.”

Speaking about the quality of opposition, nine-time National champion said, “There were a lot of the top-level players who didn’t withdraw because of the forthcoming Olympic Games. And so there were many top players even though I was the fourth seed, around 16 players were pretty close to me. So I think the competition was pretty stiff. I was just lucky to have a draw which was more suitable to me and I did well.”

Phenomenal backhand

Reflecting on his play in the final, which he won 4-2, Sharath said, “One of my best table tennis I played was in the final. I think, my backhand was phenomenal. I was surprised how I could hit those backhands so hard, with so good timing. Even Marcos appeared very, very surprised by the way I was hitting the backhands and he really didn’t know where exactly to play.

“I think throughout the tournament, especially semifinal and final, I played much better when I was trailing than when I was ahead. I think, I was very composed, especially when I was trailing. And even in the end, I saved five game-points in the sixth set. But all these five-six game points I gave away, were points which I could have converted myself.”

READ: Sharath Kamal bags Oman Open crown, ends decade-long wait for Pro Tour title

Looking at the impact of coronavirus that has sent the schedule for a toss, Sharath said, “It’s been huge. Olympic qualifiers are supposed to happen three weeks from now. But then, for the next six weeks, there is no tournament. And we don’t know when the next tournament will be held. In May, there are tournaments in Hong Kong and China, which I doubt if they will be organised at all. So, we really don’t know what is the fate of the tournaments in the next couple of months.

“And also what will be the qualification process for the Olympic Games because if the qualifying tournaments don’t happen, then what will be the process for qualification into the Olympic Games. Everything is a question mark.”