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Table tennis | I played my best in the final: Sharath Kamal

Getting lucky: Sharath says he had a favourable draw though the competition was stiff at the Oman Open.

Getting lucky: Sharath says he had a favourable draw though the competition was stiff at the Oman Open.  

He feels the coronavirus impact has put a question mark over Olympic qualifications

Sharath Kamal never ceases to surprise. At 37, Sharath he provided another evidence to his undiminished hunger to win as he claimed the Oman Open title in Muscat on Sunday. The surprise triumph ended a 10-year international title-drought following his victory in the 2010 Egypt Open.

On Monday, World No. 38 Sharath spoke at length to The Hindu on how well he played to win in a strong field and the impact of coronavirus on the process of qualification to the Olympic Games.

“Winning on pro tour is fantastic. Actually, I didn’t think about winning the Oman Open when I went into it. But looking at the draw looking and my form, I thought... okay, I should be able to make it to the semifinal at least, probably, even to the final.

“In the final, I thought playing (World No. 26, top seed from Portugal) Marcos (Freitas) will be quite difficult because he’s really been in very good shape and doing very well.”

Speaking about the quality of opposition, the nine-time National champion said, “There were a lot of top-level players who didn’t withdraw because of the forthcoming Olympic Games. Though I was the fourth seed, around 16 players were pretty close to me.

“So I think the competition was pretty stiff. I was just lucky to have a draw which was more suitable to me and I did well.”

Phenomenal backhand

Reflecting on his performance in the final, which he won 4-2, Sharath said, “I played one of my best table tennis in the final. My backhand, I think, was phenomenal. I was surprised how I could hit those backhands so hard, with such good timing. Even Marcos appeared very, very surprised by the way I was hitting the backhands, and he really didn’t know where exactly to play.

“I think throughout the tournament, especially the semifinal and final, I played much better when I was trailing than when I was ahead.

“I think, I was very composed, especially when I was trailing. And even in the end, I saved five game-points in the sixth set. But all these five-six game points I gave away, were points which I could have converted myself.”

Looking at the impact of coronavirus that has sent the schedule for a toss, Sharath said, “It’s been huge. Olympic qualifiers are supposed to happen three weeks from now.

“But then, for the next six weeks, there is no tournament. And we don’t know when the next tournament will be held. In May, there are tournaments in Hong Kong and China, which I doubt if they will be organised at all. So, we really don’t know what is the fate of the tournaments in the next couple of months.

“And also what will be the qualification process for the Olympic Games because if the qualifying tournaments don’t happen, then what will be the process for qualification to Tokyo? Everything is a question mark.”

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 7:22:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/table-tennis-i-played-my-best-in-the-final-sharath-kamal/article31084969.ece

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