Sharath outplays Nandi for title

India’s top-ranked table tennis player hardly put a foot wrong in the lop-sided final, scoring a comfortable 11-5, 11-9, 11-6 11-9 victory to wrap his campaign on a high with three gold and one silver at the Thakur Vishwanath Shahdeo indoor stadium.

Maharashtra’s Madhurika Patkar, meanwhile, had to sweat it out in an oscillating women’s singles final contest against Tamil Nadu’s K Shamini before scripting a marathon 11-5, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 8-11, 11-2 victory in 50 minutes.

Having not lost a match at the top level to Nandi for nearly seven years now, Kamal exuded confidence, knowing for certain gold was there for the taking. He was also helped by a nervous-looking Nandi, who in the end was left wondering on what he needs to do to break the stranglehold that dates back to 2002. “When I knew I was going to play Nandi in the final, I felt I had a great chance to win a gold,” said a delighted Kamal after clinching his maiden singles National Games gold. “I could sense his nervousness and I just cashed in on it. It is really satisfying to have contributed to the State’s medal tally.”

Despite not unleashing his full repertoire of shots, Kamal was always in command, toying with a clueless Nandi. Solid on the offensive and equally brilliant on the defensive, Kamal better accuracy and placement proved too hot for Nandi.

The closest Nandi got to Kamal was in the second and fourth games, but lacking big match experience and battling an inferior head-to-head his challenge felt flat during the crucial closing stages mainly due to a bout of nerves.

Nothing going right, Nandi’s pain finally ended when he hit long on championship point as Kamal walked away victorious with more ease than he would have expected.

Results (all finals): Men’s singles: Achanta Sharath Kamal (TN) bt Anirban Nandi (WB) 11-5, 11-9, 11-6, 11-9. Women’s singles: Madhurika Patkar (Mah) bt K Shamini (TN) 11-5, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 8-11, 11-2.

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