Armed with back-to-back titles over two weekends this month, A. Sharath Kamal is hoping to reach a career-high ranking of 39 in the next world ranking list expected in a fortnight.
Currently ranked 76th, Sharath won the U.S. Open and the more significant Egypt Open to go with the splendid semifinal finish at the Indian Open last month here. Victories over higher-ranked players during these events proved instrumental in helping Sharath break into the top-50 ranking for the first time.
“As per my calculations, I should be ranked 39th since my aggregate points are more than one placed at that spot at the moment. In any case, I should be in the 40s,” said Sharath.
In the last couple of months, Sharath's world ranking had slipped from a high of 55 in March to a low of 91 in June. But he has more than made up for the lost ranking points with his recent exploits.
More importantly, the twin titles have helped Sharath regain his confidence. After all, some unexpected defeats in the World team championship in Moscow in May, had left the Commonwealth Games champion seriously considering giving up the sport.
“I actually went to my coach (Massimo Constantini) and asked if I could stop playing the game. I was so dejected after losing repeatedly to lower ranked players that I did not want to look at table tennis. For over three months, I was away from my family, playing in Europe. I really needed to take a break.
Discovering his touch
“But ahead of the Indian Open, during one practice session with Amal Raj, I suddenly discovered my touch but I was not sure of getting it right in a match. When I faced Han Ji Min in the first round of Indian Open, honestly, I was very nervous. But once the match started, I got going and won a good match. Then victories over Germany's Patrick Baum (World No. 34) and Korea's Jung Young Sik boosted my self-belief. How I wish I had done better in the semifinals against the eventual winner and top-seeded German Dimitrij Ovtcharov. “I was high on confidence when I left for the US Open. I was seeded second and won the event by beating the top seed Keineth Thomas (of Slovakia), ranked 72 in the world. At that point, I thought I had given myself a perfect present, a week ahead of my birthday (July 12).
But the way I played and won the Egypt Open, it was highly satisfying. I defeated two strong Hong Kong players, second seed Jiang Tianyi (ranked 48th) in the semifinals and top seed Li Ching (ranked 25th) in the final.”
Sharath's rise in ranking has made India the second strongest team among the Commonwealth nations. That in turn means that favourite Singapore and India will be in two different halves of the draw, thereby seeded to meet only in the final. Should India play to its seeding, a silver medal is assured.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games