Sharath Kamal: A momentous achievement

Sharath Kamal beat G. Sathiyan to win his ninth national title, surpassing Kamlesh Mehta's eight.

Achanta Sharath Kamal exults after beating G. Sathiyan for his record ninth national title.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Rajath Kamal was working in his office in Chennai on Tuesday morning when he got a call from his elder brother Sharath. “Take the next flight and come to Cuttack. I want you in the corner tomorrow,” is what Sharath Kamal, the veteran paddler, ordered his younger brother.

It’s unusual for a veteran like Achanta Sharath Kamal to feel the burden of his quest for yet another historic milestone but the champion admitted he started feeling jittery as the individual events of the 80th 11Sports Senior National Championship began.

“Ever since I reached Cuttack, every time I entered the hall, everyone would remind of the ninth title so it had started getting to me,” Sharath said after edging past G. Sathiyan in a marathon final to win his ninth crown and going past Kamlesh Mehta’s eight titles.

Read: Sharath wins record ninth national title

Just like he did in Ranchi last year, Mehta was among the first to congratulate Sharath for his momentous achievement.

“In terms of sheer quality, this was the best match I have played in India. He gave his all, considering he is in form and was playing his third final having lost two earlier, and I was chasing the ninth. The 2010-11 final against Soumyadeep (Roy) was also high-quality but here I also had to save a match point,” Sharath said.

“In terms of pressure, I would put the seventh title (in Manesar in 2016-17) ahead because I hadn’t won the Nationals for six years. And in terms of emotions, this beats all the earlier titles because of the magnanimity of the achievement.”

Kamath’s first

While Sharath was relieved that the monkey was off his back, Archana Kamath broke down the moment she won the championship point and become the second-youngest female National champion after Rinku Gupta’s feat in 1988-89.

The Bangalorean dedicated her title to “three special persons who passed away recently”. She added: “Coach Vijay Sarathy who was very dear to all of us (in the Karnataka table tennis fraternity), Judit Magos Engel (wife of former India coach Peter Engel) and my cousin Rakshita who passed away recently in tragic circumstances.”

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