Stuns defending champion Toriola in semifinals

Melbourne: Playing at his aggressive best, India's top ranked player Achanta Sharath Kamal stunned defending champion Segun Toriola of Nigeria 4-0 to storm into the final of the table tennis singles competition of the Commonwealth Games here on Saturday.

Sharath Kamal, architect of India's triumph in the team event here, thus became the first paddler from the country to reach the final of the individual event in the Commonwealth Games.

With this win, the 24-year-old Indian Oil Corporation officer assured India of one more medal and also proved that his showing in the team events final was no fluke.

Simply awesome

Sharath, gold medallist of the 2004 Commonwealth table tennis championship in Kuala Lumpur, was in awesome form and his Nigerian rival found it hard to stay in the game.

Toriola, winner of the gold in 2002 Manchester Games and ranked 44 rungs above Sharath, looked listless and was no challenge to the Indian's dominance.

Sharath played close to the table and did not allow his rival the luxury of long rallies. The Indian went for the kill more often, leaving Toriola stranded.

No match

The 20-minute battle was an uneven affair with Sharath dominating for most part. It was only in the second game that Toriola fought back but could not claim it and soon he threw in the towel.

Sharath, with his top-spin and powerful returns, outclassed the Nigerian who found it hard to move around fast enough to reply to his rival's forehands and jabs.

The Indian conceded only 30 points to his rival in the four games, most of them in the second.

Sharath started confidently, winning the first game 11-6. Toriola was very slow in his movements and his forehand shots were wide off the mark most times. He also had difficulty in understanding and negotiating his opponent's service.

The Indian was very agile at the table. Toriola tried to go for big rallies in an attempt to tire out the Indian but Sharath saw through the tactics and never went for the rallies.

The second game turned out to be a battle of wits between the two and Sharath kept hitting the ball right on the edges of his rival's table and the 106th ranked Toriola saw them whizzing past him.

Missed chances

The Nigerian with a classic grip had a chance to draw parity but he frittered the advantage in the second game in which he led twice but committed unforced errors that allowed Sharath to snatch the game 15-13.

Losing this game demoralised Toriola and the Indian showed no mercy and kept up the pressure to win the third game 11-8 and whipped his rival in the fourth 11-3.

``Making it to the final of the individual event of the Games is a very thrilling experience,'' admitted a beaming Sharath after the match.

``I was confident of victory and an attacking game,'' he added.

Team manager Dhanraj Chowdhery was also elated and he said, ``This has been the table tennis team's best showing in the Games so far. We have two medals a gold and a bronze in the men's and women's team events and now we are assured of another. If Sharath plays the same way, we can hope for another gold on Sunday.'' UNI

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