India's Sharath Kamal produced the magic for which the crowd had thronged the Yamuna Sports Complex, with a wonderfully crafted 11-7, 11-3, 11-7, 6-11, 11-6 victory over Ma Liang of Singapore in the men's quarterfinals of the Commonwealth Games table tennis event here on Tuesday.
Sharath, defending his title, made a perfect start. His forehand top-spin shots were coming off well and his backhand block disrupted Liang's rhythm.
There were times when Sharath simply did not allow the rally to prolong by finishing it on his forehand. When Liang was getting aggressive, Sharath employed his backhand blade to block or place them for winners.
Though ranked 176 in the world — 136 places below the Indian paddler — Liang was no pushover for he had won the Indian Open Pro Tour title last year, and is considered a doughty paddler.
Experts predicted a very tough match, but Sharath proved many wrong, not for the first time though.
“Certainly, it was not an easy match as the scoreboard suggests. I had to run for every point. It was just that I didn't give him a chance. He (Liang) is a player with an effective forehand. But I didn't let him do that,” said Sharath, who will meet Yang Zi of Singapore next.
Yang snuffed out a stiff challenge from the English hope Paul Drinkhall, winning 11-6, 12-10, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-5.
Showing a distinct penchant for attack, Soumyadeep Roy overpowered Cai Xiaoli of Singapore 11-7, 5-11, 12-10, 11-5, 13-11 to reach the semifinals.
Soumyadeep's intentions were clear from the first game; launch an offensive at the slightest opportunity.
Moving quite well and executing forehand top-spin shots accurately, Soumyadeep won a majority of his points on the forehand. Against Xiaoli, who too prefers to play away from the table, Soumyadeep knew the only way to outwit the Singaporean was to go for winners and he did that to near-perfection.
After having beat two higher-ranked opponents, William Henzell (122) and Xiaoli (167), along with his confidence, his rankings, currently at 245, would also go up. “My fitness has been really good. I have been working on my legs on a few specific exercises,” he said. “You start shaky, but you get better with each every match. I executed my strategies very well.”
Gao Ning, the top seed, overcame A. Amalraj 11-1, 4-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-7 to advance to the semifinals where he'll take on Soumyadeep. Sharath and Subhajit Saha (men's doubles) and the duo of Mouma Das and Poulomi Ghatak (women's doubles) entered the semifinals too. In the mixed doubles, the lone Indian pair of Madhurika Patkar and Amalraj lost in the quarterfinals on Monday.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games