Everyone loves a young champion. A mix of childlike innocence, the exuberance of youth and the much-envied positive attitude all play their part in a player’s pursuit of success.
On Saturday, Soumyajit Ghosh, 19, put all these qualities together in a display of his big-match temperament. Unbeaten in India this season, the youngster continued his domination of defending champion A. Amalraj in the semifinals and bounced back from deficit to outsmart six-time winner Sharath Kamal for his maiden singles title in the National table tennis championship here.
Training under former World doubles’ champion Sweden’s Peter Karlsson and improving steadily in all aspects of the game, Ghosh proved a worthy winner and received a cheque of Rs. 2.30 lakh, twice of Sharath’s share for his record 10th National final appearance.
Earlier, K. Shamini took a step towards shedding the label of being an under-achiever, for all her talent and hard work, by upstaging seven-time winner Poulomi Ghatak in five games. Shamini collected Rs. 1.45 lakh and Poulomi, Rs. 72,500.
Twice finalist to Poulomi, Shamini broke the jinx by taking her third title in five successive final appearances. In the semifinals, both stretching to seven games, Shamini and Poulomi rallied from being 2-3 down. If Shamini got the better of London Olympic qualifier Ankita Das, Poulomi stopped Beijing Olympic qualifier Neha Aggarwal after trailing 5-8 in the decider. In fact, Neha’s action of throwing the racquet and bringing down a surround cost her 15 per cent of her winnings.
Though Ghosh beat Sharath 4-1 for this season’s Inter-Institutional title in August, a repeat result was not expected since the former champion looked in better shape and form. But Ghosh had the last laugh.
“When Sharath Bhaiya led 7-0 in the opening game, I was praying to get at least one point in the game. But once I took the 6-0 lead (by accelerating the pace that surprised Sharath) in the second game, I had some hope. After I lost the third game and trailed 1-4 in the fourth, my friend Harmeet Desai signalled for a time-out and the ploy worked. It broke Sharath Bhaiya’s rhythm and I found a way to force the error on his backhand repeatedly,” said an elated Ghosh.
Gracious in defeat
Sharath, who succumbed to the rising pressure by netting his serve at 7-7 in the sixth game, was gracious in defeat. “I am happy I got my old game back this week. I played well and not too sad about losing. Must say, after some point, I could not break Ghosh’s rhythm,” admitted the 30-year-old.
Shamini played close to the table and controlled the rallies better. The consistency of her flat returns frustrated Poulomi who later said, “I did not play the final well. Somehow, I did not get the feeling that I was playing the title-match. But all credit to Shamini for the way she played.”
The shy Tamil Nadu girl said, “This National title is very important to me since I had lost to Poulomi twice in the final. I beat her in the zonal event in Bangalore but winning the final means a lot to me.”
The results (prefix denotes seeding):
Men’s singles (final): 1-Soumyajit Ghosh bt 6-A. Sharath Kamal (Pet) 3-11, 11-5, 5-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7. Semifinals: Ghosh bt 5-A. Amalraj (Pet) 12-10, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4; Sharath bt 2-Sanil Shetty (Pet) 11-7, 11-7, 11-5, 11-2.
Women’s singles (final): 2-K. Shamini bt 1-Poulomi Ghatak (Pet) 14-12, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8. Semifinals: Poulomi bt Neha Aggarwal (Del) 10-12, 14-12, 12-14, 11-8, 4-11, 12-10, 11-9; Shamini bt 3-Ankita Das (Pet) 9-11, 12-10, 12-10, 9-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-3.
Men’s doubles: 3-Sourav Chakraborty and G. Sathiyan (Pet) bt Aman Balgu and Noel Pinto (Rlys) 11-5, 11-5, 12-10.
Women’s doubles: K. Spoorthy and Nikhat Banu (AP) bt 1-Madhurika Patkar and Pooja Sahasrabudhe (Pet) 14-12, 3-11, 11-7, 11-5.
Mixed doubles: Utkarsh Gupta and Manika Batra (Del) bt 2-Harmeet Desai and Frenaz Chipia (Guj) 11-8, 11-5, 11-6.