At this level of competition, everyone expects India's top paddler Sharath Kamal to win. “In that way, there is pressure on me,” said the 28-year-old.
In table tennis singles event of the 34th Jharkhand National Games, Sharath has been able to handle the expectations pretty well. In a one-sided final at the Thakur Vishwanath Shahdeo Indoor Stadium here on Saturday, Sharath, ranked 40 in the world, drubbed Anirban Nandi of West Bengal 11-5, 11-9, 11-6, 11-9.
The women's final was far more competitive. In a battle of equals Madhurika Patkar of Maharashtra overcame defending champion K. Shamini (Tamil Nadu) in seven engrossing games, 11-5, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 8-11, 11-2.
Slip in rankings
Nandi hasn't been in the best of form and his ranking has slipped in the last couple of years. Ranked 15 in India, Nandi, runner-up in the last edition of the Games in Guwahati, couldn't stretch Sharath in most of the rallies.
Sharath's choice of shots and the pace were of high quality. Very rarely, did Nandi win a point with some sort of conviction. “His spin and pace is very difficult for players like us,” admitted Nandi.
“Having lost in the semifinals of the 2001 Punjab Games (to S. Raman) and the '02 Hyderabad (to Soumyadeep Roy), winning this comfortably, gives me immense satisfaction,” said Sharath, who won three gold medals — men's singles, team event and mixed doubles — here.
Serving well and using her forehand top-spin to good effect, Madhurika raced away to a 3-1 led. Shamini didn't handle Madhurika's loopy forehand with confidence.
Shamini, the reigning National champion and the country's top paddler, clawed back to equalise. In the deciding seventh game, Shamini looked out of sorts and was erratic. Madhurika, however, kept her focus and took a handy 8-1 lead.
“I was upset with myself for having lost two games points, 10-8 in both the third and fourth games. But there is no excuse. She played a better game,” said Shamini.
For Madhurika, it was a golden treble as she had earlier won the women's doubles, and was instrumental in Maharashtra clinching the women's team title.
The results: Table tennis (finals): Men: A. Sharath Kamal (TN) bt Anirban Nandi (WB) 11-5, 11-9, 11-6, 11-9.
Women: Madhurika Patkar (Mah) bt K. Shamini (TN) 11-5, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 8-11, 11-2.
Mixed doubles: Sharath Kamal / K. Shamini (TN) bt Sourav Saha / Ankita Das (WB) 8-11, 4-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-4.