Petroleum's Achanta Sharath Kamal weathered a struggle with his own erratic form and an unrelentingly aggressive opponent in Soumyadeep Roy to win his fifth consecutive title in the Keventer 72nd senior National and inter-state table tennis tournament at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here on Sunday.
K. Shamini completed Petroleum's dominance reclaiming the women's title by convincingly beating Mamta Prabhu of Maharashtra in the women's final.
Roy, the champion in 2000 and 2001, got himself within two points of the crown, leading three games to two and 9-7 in the sixth game. But he failed to push the advantage to its conclusion as Sharath Kamal scripted a turnaround from there.
Sharath Kamal won the first game with relative ease. He then lost his way, lapsing into repeated errors as Roy started creating winners off sharp returns.
Roy drew level and sustained his devastating form in the next two games.
“I had suddenly lost the rhythm. Either I was playing too bad or he (Roy) was playing too well,” Sharath Kamal said after the match.
Down 1-2 the holder tried a comeback in the fourth game and worked up a lead of 6-1 only to squander it with a series of slipshod hitting. Roy took the fourth game 12-10 before Sharath Kamal played hard to stay in the match and narrowed the former's lead to 3-2.
Roy then raced to a 9-7 lead in the sixth and looked to complete the upset. But, Sharath Kamal made it 9-8 with a forehand crosscourt winner before Roy called for a time-out.
But the strategy failed to work as Sharath Kamal utilised the break to regroup, and reeled off three successive points to level the game score at 3-3.
The decider proved more of a mind game where Sharath Kamal enjoyed a greater cerebral leverage and closed the match out to take the Maharaja Pithapuram Cup.
“This was his (Roy's) title which I stole. The way the final went would make this my most memorable win in the Nationals,” Sharath Kamal said, after he had created history by winning his fifth consecutive title and the sixth overall. The earlier record for consecutive titles was with Kamlesh Mehta, an eight-time champion who had won the title four times between 1985 and 1988.
Playing her third successive final, Shamini, who had won the title in her maiden final appearance in 2009, was at her clinical best against first-timer Mamta Prabhu. Shamini hardly allowed Mamata any space and went up two games before fumbling a little in the third that allowed her opponent to snatch one back. Shamini was all over Mamta in the next two games and closed it out easily to regain the Travancore Cup in style.
Shamini and Sharath Kamal won Rs.187,000 each.
Semifinals: Men: Sharath Kamal bt R. Abhishek (TN) 11-9, 11-6, 11-1, 11-5; Soumyadeep bt Soumyajit Ghosh (NB) 11-5, 12-10, 12-10, 9-11, 11-3. Women: Shamini bt Madhurika Patkar (PSPB) 11-6, 10-12, 11-4, 11-9, 11-8; Mamta bt Nandita Saha (NB) 11-9, 14-16, 11-5, 9-11, 11-3, 10-12, 11-9.