Sharath Kamal and Divya Deshpande fall short in the singles finals

The inter-institutional championship opened the table tennis season with the crowning of a new men’s champion — Soumyajit Ghosh — in its 42nd edition here on Monday.

Soumyajit ousted defending champion Anthony Amalraj in the semifinals before conquering the seemingly invincible World No. 73 Achanta Sharath Kamal at the Khudiram Indoor Stadium.

The women’s section restored the old order as reigning National champion Poulomi Ghatak retained the crown, defeating her youthful challenger Divya Deshpande. Interestingly, both Soumyajit and Poulomi annexed double crowns, winning the doubles finals earlier in the day.

Petroleum swept the individual titles in keeping with its dominance in the team events.

The feature of the finals was 19-year-old Soumyajit’s grand ascent to the seniors’ scene. Barely into the first year after stepping out of a very successful junior stage, Soumyajit displayed the grit and temperament of a champion as he virtually battered his highly-rated opponents into submission.

Flawless performance

Sharath Kamal, the top-ranked player on the domestic scene for almost a decade, saw his pre-eminence challenged as Soumyajit produced a near-flawless performance. Sharath, who lost his top seeding this season for the first time in many years following a forgettable outing in the previous season, tried everything in his repertoire to regain his lost position. But Soumyajit proved equal to the task.

Showing the required nerve and gumption to challenge the might of a player of Sharath Kamal’s stature, Soumyajit came back from almost hopeless situations in three games to turn the tables on the very player he has idolised for long.

In the first game Sharath had five game points, none of which he could convert as Soumyajit reversed the equation to win the game 15-13. The next two games saw Soumyajit trailing most of the time, before he overtook Sharath in the later stages and won 11-7 and 11-9.

Sharath won the fourth game and tried to reverse the tide in the fifth, salvaging two championship points. But Soumyajit’s unflinching attitude forced the former to surrender in the end, with the final scoreline reading 15-13, 11-7, 11-9, 9-11, 15-13. “I was in good rhythm and played consistently. I put him under pressure and exploited his weakness as he started making mistakes,” Soumyajit said after the win. “This is definitely the best win of my career and I owe my title to Sharath himself as he has greatly helped me develop my game,” he said.

Poulomi gave yet another display of her powerful game that has helped her establish a long reign at the top of the women’s hierarchy.

Starting her opening game rather hesitantly, Poulomi surrendered to Divya’s fine returns to lose the first game 10-12.

However, the seven-time National champion was relentless with her powerful forehands and gave Divya little opportunity after that. Poulomi, who had lost to Divya in Petroleum’s inter-unit championship in February, turned the tide in the second game. Poulomi landed successive forehand winners to take the next four games and the title with comfortable ease.

Soumyajit earned Rs. 75,000 for his effort, while Poulomi received Rs. 58,000.

The results: Men’s singles: Final: Soumyajit Ghosh (PSPB) bt A. Sharath Kamal 15-13, 11-7, 11-9, 9-11, 15-13. Semifinals: Sharath Kamal bt Harmeet Desai (PSPB) 13-11, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8; Soumyajit bt Anthony Amalraj 11-7, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-3. Doubles: Final: Harmeet Desai & Soumyajit Ghosh (PSPB) bt Devesh Karia & Sayan Paul Roy (CRSB) 10-12, 13-11, 11-8, 11-8.

Women’s singles: Final: Poulomi Ghatak (PSPB) bt Divya Deshpande (PSPB) 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7, 11-8. Semifinals: Poulomi bt Ankita Das (PSPB) 11-8, 11-9, 11-7, 11-4; Divya bt Mousumi Paul (PSPB) 11-9, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-6. Doubles: Final: Poulomi & Moma Das (PSPB) bt K. Shamini & Mousumi Paul 10-12, 10-12, 11-2, 12-10, 12-10.

Mixed doubles: Final: G. Sathiyan & Narasimha Priya (PSPB) bt Sourav Saha & T. Reeth Rishya 11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 12-10.

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