Sharath is ranked 74th in the world
He had to play three matches on Wednesday
NEW DELHI: Commonwealth Games champion A. Sharath Kamal claimed his first major title in more than a year by winning the Pyongyang Invitational table tennis tournament in North Korea on Monday.
Sharath, who reached the Capital on Wednesday and left for Kochi late in the evening, was elated after scoring four straight victories over North Korean rivals on way to the singles title.
“It does my confidence a world of good. Although it does not raise my world ranking since it was an invitational meet, scoring over the strong North Koreans was a great feeling.”
The reigning National champion, ranked 74th in the world, defeated Kim Hyok Bong 10-12, 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 13-15, 11-8, 11-6 in the final after squandering five game points in the fifth game.
“This was the third match of the day for me and I was very tired at that point,” recalled Sharath and continued, “In the sixth game, I jumped to a 8-3 lead before he caught up. I took the last three points to force the decider.
Here, Bong led 3-0 and 5-2. After the change of sides, I gave him just one point. It felt great to finish the job this way,” he said.
Before taming Pi Chol Cuk 6-11, 12-10, 11-4, 11-9, 11-4 in the semifinals, Sharath played what turned out to his “toughest match” of the competition.
In the quarterfinals, Sharath faced five match points before overpowering Chang Sang Mau 13-11, 4-11, 6-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 15-13.
“In the decider, Mau led 10-7 but I managed to move ahead at 11-10. He forced two more match points at 12-11 and 13-12 before I stopped him,” said Sharath of his 75-minute match against the “chopper” from Korea.
In the pre-quarterfinals, Sharath accounted for defending champion Kim Chol Jin 4-11, 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-4.
“Due to paucity of funds, the North Koreans do not play in many ranking tournaments like they did in the 1990s. As a result, they are not ranked very high in the world today. But given their today’s standards, I guess, these four players can walk into the top-50 list of the world,” said Sharath as he acknowledged the playing strength of the leading North Koreans.
Spain trip cancelled
Meanwhile, Sharath could not get his visa for Spain on Wednesday. Sharath was due to leave for Madrid on Wednesday night to play in the crucial tie for San Sebastian in the Spanish league.
After speaking to his club authorities in Madrid, Sharath headed for Kochi to play in the South Zone ranking tournament.