On Wednesday, in the space of a couple of hours, a packed house at the Yamuna Sports Complex witnessed A. Sharath Kamal display two extreme emotions.

Clearly shattered by a narrow loss in the singles semifinal to Singapore's Yang Zi, the dethroned Commonwealth Games champion was finding it tough to fight back tears.

The same evening, Sharath was ecstatic beyond words after joining hands with Subhajit Saha to pull off a memorable triumph over Yang Zi and his compatriot Gao Ning in the doubles final. With Saha, Sharath celebrated like a child who got back his lost toy.

“In fact, I didn't speak to anyone for the next half hour. I was so excited that I, honestly, did not know what to do with myself. I tossed away my bandana and the wristband into the crowd, who were so supportive all along. For that moment, nothing else mattered. After all, we had a gold medal to show in table tennis,” was how Sharath put it in a chat with The Hindu on Friday.

'All credit to Saha'

Sharath was quick to hail the role played by Saha in the triumphant campaign. “All credit to Saha for the way he played, especially in the final. Remember, he was nursing a tennis elbow. He was low on confidence; was struggling to anticipate the returns and his movements were slow. Thanks to a good draw, we did not have many testing matches early on. Saha slowly picked up his game and eventually produced his best in the final. He was simply awesome.”

Sharath finished the Games with three medals — a gold in the doubles and bronze in the singles and team championships. “Call it coincidence, like last time in Melbourne, I am the only individual gold winner from Tamil Nadu,” he reminds.

“Our team had aimed for five medals and we got it. I think the performance of our women's team which made it to the final was most commendable. Add to it the doubles bronze (Poulomi Ghatak and Mouma Das) and we have many positives from these Games,” said Sharath.

100th medal

In fact, Sharath's singles' bronze on the final day was India's 100th medal in the Games and held a very special meaning for him.

“On Wednesday morning, I saw India's medal-tally stood at 96 and some more were assured from hockey, table tennis and badminton.

“By the time my bronze-medal match started against Soumyadeep Roy, our tally had reached 99. I wanted to win (a medal) and as it turned out, it was India's 100th medal. It is a nice piece of statistics to be associated with,” said Sharath.

Speaking of the positives, Sharath felt nice about being accepted as a top-40 player in the world. “Players like Yang Zi, Paul Drinkhall and some others actually walked up to me and said they had seen noticeable improvement in my game. Drinkhall thought my backhand had improved remarkably. The truth is, now I am moving faster and have more time to play my shots.

“Players in Europe (where Sharath plays professionally) think that I have a good game to beat the Chinese because I play a bit like them, have a big forehand, like most Asians, and finish points early.

“The Europeans are generally good on the backhand and control the ball better while the Asians have better thinking ability in tight situations. I think the improvement in my game is now being noticed and appreciated. That's one of the big gains from these Games.”

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