Poulomi dethrones Shamini
Till the moment A. Amalraj gave vent to his pent-up emotions on stunning Sharath Kamal, Poulomi Ghatak's seventh National title — first ever by a married woman — was the high-point of the final evening of the National table tennis championship here.
On match-point, Sharath netted a forehand and uncorked the unseen emotions of Amalraj.
Next moment, Amalraj jumped for joy and landed on top of the table. A gracious Sharath, having lost his five-year reign as National champion, walked across to shake his conqueror by the hand.
Amalraj came down, tapped Sharath's outstretched hand and ran around the arena like a wounded lion in a cage. In his moment of triumph, Amalraj almost forgot shaking hands with the waiting officials and his coach S. Raman.
“I am the National champion,” the 25-year-old Amalraj kept screaming with clenched fists raised above his head, as he circled around the table. But the match-officials, Chief Referee and the Competition Manager were far from impressed.
The unbridled show of emotions resulted in Amalraj being shown a yellow card, a red card and eventually docked 25 per cent of his winnings for his “misbehaviour and bringing the game to disrepute.”
The fine of Rs. 52,250, from his winning cheque of Rs. 2.10 lakh, may have momentarily dampened the spirit of Amalraj but it was sure to stay in the memories of packed house here.
“I have been playing for more than 15 years and all my fellow players have won at least one National title. I am so happy to break the jinx by winning the National title, that too by beating Sharath, who is such a great player,” said Amalraj.
Amalraj, who has never won a single National title in his career spanning 15 years, played the match of his life to stop his one-time mentor.
Sharath, looking for his seventh title and sixth on the trot, had his chances in the first three lost games.
In this fast-paced encounter lasting under an hour, Amalraj clawed back in the first three games to push Sharath to the threshold of his first defeat in the National championship since losing to Subhajit Saha in the 2006 final at Jaipur.
Sharath led 7-3 in the first game but Amalraj bounced back to win eight of the last nine points. In the second, Sharath was 8-6 ahead but Amalraj went on to win the last five points. In the third, Sharath held a game-point but Amalraj raced away with the last three points.
Under mounting pressure, Sharath never trailed in the fourth game and broke away from nine-all to pull one back. In the fifth, Amalraj led 5-3 but Sharath won five points on the trot and slowly grabbed the game.
In the sixth, the turning point came when Amalraj took a ‘time-out at 6-7 and won five out of the next six points to pull off the biggest upset in the championship for a long time.
Earlier, Poulomi turned the ladies final into a one-sided affair. She hurt Shamini the most by winning the third game after trailing 2-8. In the fourth, Shamini tied Poulomi twice but the Bengal girl raced away with the last three points.
The results: Men singles (final): A. Amalraj (Pet) bt A. Sharath Kamal (Pet) 11-8, 11-8, 12-10, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8. Semifinals: Sharath Kamal bt Soumayajit Ghosh (NB) 11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-6; Amalraj bt Subhajit Saha (Pet) 11-7, 11-4, 11-7, 11-8.
Women singles (final): Poulomi Ghatak (Pet) K. Shamini 11-9, 11-4, 11-8, 11-7. Semifinals: Poulomi bt Ankita Das (NB) 11-3, 9-11, 11-9, 4-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-8; K. Shamini bt Mouma Das 11-9, 11-4, 12-10, 13-15, 11-6.
Men's doubles (final): Sanil Shetty & Amal Raj (Pet) bt Harmit Desai & Devesh Karia (Guj) 12-10, 8-11, 10-11, 11-6, 12-10.
Women's doubles (final): K. Shamini & Mousami Paul (Pet) bt Anindita Chakraborty & Pallavi Kundu (WB) 5-11, 11-5, 11-6, 12-10.