Sathiyan Gnanasekaran ended his long wait for a national title with a convincing 4-2 win over nine-time champion Sharath Kamal in the 82nd National Table Tennis Championships in Panchkula on Tuesday. Sathiyan had rued his missed chances against Sharath in the final at Cuttack a couple of years ago. That win had put Sharath, the current world No. 32, on a high pedestal.
On Tuesday, it was a different Sathiyan. So was Sharath, who was not at his usual self as he lost momentum in the fifth game of the men’s singles final.
“Third time I was lucky, no more jinx. A huge burden off my shoulder,” said Sathiyan.
Before Cuttack, he had missed out at Pondicherry (2014) and Hyderabad (2015). The win on Tuesday also helped him carry home Rs. 2.50 lakh as prize money.
Taking a 2-0 lead, Sathiyan made his intentions loud and clear. But he knows his experienced opponent can change the flow of the match in a matter of minutes. And Sharath did strike, taking the next two games.
But, as has been seen very often, Sharath had his problems unable to land the ball. Converting those moments to his advantage, Sathiyan nailed it again and went 3-2 up.
As if on cue, Sathiyan kept his backhand blocks and forehand scorchers going, pushing Sharath on the backfoot as hard as possible.
Sharath allowed Sathiyan to take control of the match slowly but surely. It’s equally important to give full credit to Sathiyan, the new champion, who punched his way up the ladder with a lot of hard work.
“In the end, it was a good match, and he deserved to win,” said the genial Sharath.
He attributed the loss to the lack of concentration in the fifth game after leading 8-6.
“Two crucial mistakes cost me dearly at that stage. But Sathiyan let me off the hook in the third to come back. These are part of the game. I am happy for him,” he added.
With age catching up with Sharath, he is not yet giving up chasing his tenth title.
“I will certainly come back strong and aim for it,” 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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