Ever since they came here for the event, they have been seriously handicapped. But North Korea, despite being a player short, defeated India 3-1 in the First Division team championship final of the 19th Asian Table Tennis Championship here on Tuesday.
Ranked 87th in the world, Man Song Jang didn’t allow India’s top bet Achanta Sharath Kamal to settle down, beating him in straight games to give his side a 1-0 lead. Sharath, ranked 71st in the world, did manage to level the scores nine times in the first game but he had no answer to Jang’s chops and flicks and lost by two points at 16-18. The next two games were easy for the Korean as he made a mockery of the Indian star, winning 11-5, 11-8.
In the first reverse singles too Sharath stretched Bong Hyok Kim to 17-19 in the second game after losing the first at 5-11. But it wasn’t of any use as the Korean pocketed the game and the match 11-5, 19-17, 11-4. In between the two matches, Soumyadeep Roy too succumbed to Bong Hyok Kim’s magic, losing in straight games.
Earlier, India beat Iran 3-2 in the first semifinal, while North Korea got the better of lowly Macau 3-1. After losing his first singles to Iran’s Noshad Doronkolaie 1-3, Roy looked edgy. But when he returned to the court for his reverse singles, he beat Iran’s best bet Mehran Ahadi with a gritty display.
Though he started with an opening-game loss, he upped his game in the second to win 11-6 after managing a five-point lead at 7-2. In the third, he was stretched a bit by the left-handed Ahadi, but Roy mesmerised him with some eye-catching forehand flicks.
However, it was ace paddler Sharath Kamal, who set the tone for India’s fascinating win against Iran at the crowded UP Badminton Academy Hall. He won the first game against Ahadi on deuce before losing the second by just two points. Thereafter, the 71st ranked player in the world had all the answers to Ahadi’s strokes as he blocked right to win the third game on deuce before pocketing the fourth at 11-9.