Achanta Sharath Kamal enhanced his reputation as the greatest table tennis player the country has ever produced by turning the clock back to regain the Men’s Singles title in the Commonwealth Games after a gap of 16 years, coming back after losing the first game to beat Liam Pitchford of England in the final.
Sharath Kamal, who had won the Men’s Singles title for the first time in 2006 at Manchester, had claimed bronze medals in the 2010 and 2018 editions but the gold had eluded him ever since.
On Monday, he did not face any disappointment as he controlled the game superbly and defeated a higher-rated player in England’s Liam Pitchford 4-1 in the final. Sharath, is ranked 39th in the World Table Tennis (WTT) rankings while Pitchford is 20th but on Monday, the Indian star made light work of the ranking advantage as he scripted a comprehensive win, 11-13, 11-7, 11-2, 11-6, 11-8.
This was Sharath’s fourth medal of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, his three gold and one silver making him the most successful Indian athlete in Birmingham. Besides, the Men’s Singles gold, Sharath also won gold in Mixed Doubles, with Sreeja Akula, and the Men’s Team competition. His fourth medal came in the Men’s Doubles in the company of G Sathiyan. This also took his overall tally in the Commonwealth Games to 13 (7 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze).
India had more success in the men’s singles as G SAthiyan won the bronze medal by beating England’s Paul Drinkhall 4-3 in a hard-fought encounter. Sathiyan won the first three games before losing the next three and finally salvaging the bronze with 11-9, 11-3, 11-5, 8-11, 9-11, 10-12, 11-8 win. This was Sathiyan’s third medal in Birmingham, adding to his gold in Men’s Team competition and silver in Men’s Doubles with Sharath.
The Men’s Singles final against Pitchford was like a revenge of sorts for Sharath as he and Sathiyan had lost to the English pair of Pitchford and Drinkhall in the Men’s Doubles.
Despite playing late on Sunday night to win the Mixed Doubles gold, Sharath got off to a good start but lost the close first game in a neck-and-neck battle with the English player. Sharath took early control in the second and did not allow his rival many chances as he maintained a slight advantage throughout. The third game was rather one-sided as Sharath took early control and did not allow Pitchford many chances. With the momentum shifting towards /Sharath, the Indian star encountered stiff resistance from the English paddler but managed to prevail in the fourth and fifth games to win the title.
“He played unbelievably well and to be honest at times I didn’t really know where to play against him, he knew every ball I was playing, he was just solid,” said Pitchford after the match.
“I don’t think I played particularly badly but honestly, I just didn’t know where to play the ball against him, so maybe I need to go back and do my homework for next time,” said the English player.