India’s hope for a medal in table tennis during the Commonwealth Games received a smashing boost when Achanta Sharath Kamal became the first paddler from the country to win a singles title on the IITF Pro Tour. He defeated top seed Li Ching of Hong Kong in the final of the Egypt Open on Sunday.
Back in the country after a successful outing that included triumph in the US Open at Michigan as well, the defending Commonwealth Games champion termed the wins as the best moments in his sporting career. “The quality of players was exceptionally high and to emerge victorious is a special feeling. It is a good indication that our training is on the right track and we are prepared for the CWG,” he said, but added that playing in front of the home fans “can be a double-edged sword”.
The Arjuna Awardee had made it to the semifinals of the Indian Open last month only to be humbled by world number 13 Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany. “There was a lot to learn from that tournament. I realised the need to focus on my backhand technique more, which is not my strong point, and it helped me in Egypt. I also increased my physical fitness,” said the 76 ranked paddler.
Also crediting his success to video analysis technique, he said, “Video analysis along with a great support staff has and will continue to assist me and my fellow players in the run-up to CWG,” he told HT from Chennai.
The training is set to get even more gruelling with a transitional camp, already underway in Patiala, being followed by camps in China and a tour of Europe.
Sharath feels that these tours, especially under the guidance of Italian coach Massimo Constantini, would greatly benefit him as well as other paddlers. “Massimo has the ability to adjust to the needs of each player and will continue to play a crucial role in our preparations.”