India's ace paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal made full use of the home conditions, including fan support, to storm into the semifinals of the NCC Indian Table Tennis Championships, being held in the Capital. The win has a special significance, as he is the only Indian remaining in the men's singles category.
The 28-year-old emerged winner from a torrid seven-set Round 2 match against Patrick Baum of Germany only to get embroiled in an equally thrilling 4-2 quarterfinal match against Jung Young Sik of South Korea.
After having his racquet disqualified for a table-bang in Round 2, Sharath made use of a fellow player's racquet to handle the pressure his opponents exerted on him. Credit must be given to Jung though as he seemed to have grasped the importance of the match against the crowd favourite.
He repeatedly got Sharath to commit mistakes as he unleashed a volley of smashes to take the first set. Momentum though was hard to maintain for the Korean as the crowd, including the entire Indian contingent on the sidelines, rallied its 'vocal' support behind Sharath. The Commonwealth gold-medallist did not disappoint as he came from behind to hammer the final nail in the coffin.
India's national coach, Massimo Constantini of Italy was a visibly relieved man after the match. "He (Massimo) kept telling me to follow the trajectory of the ball. He has been a good support as a lot of strategising is involved," said Sharath after the match. He said he had spoken to some of his fellow players who had already faced Jung in earlier rounds, which helped him identify his opponent's weak points.
He will now take on World Number 15, Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany in the semis.