Tuesday witnessed keenly contested table tennis at the GAIL PSPB TT tournament at the Thyagaraj Stadium. Achanta Sharath Kamal displayed a highly improved performance to outclass National champion A Amalraj in six games while 17-year old Manika Batra went past Mouma Das 9-11 11-9 6-11 11-6 12-10 11-8 to claim the honours in the womens singles. For Sharath Kamal who won 11-8 11-9 7-11 5-11 13-11 11-5,the final was a chance to assert his claim as being the best player in the country and a means to prove that Amalrajs triumph over him in the TT Nationals at Lucknow last week a one off achievement.
Sharath Kamal pressed hard from the start and pocketed the first two games quite comfortably,conceding just eight and nine points. Sharath Kamal aggressively dealt with Amalrajs strategy of relying on rallies and punished him every time he hit a scratchy return. His intention to dominate his rival seem clear. At Lucknow,I was just experimenting with my style of playing man-to-man (rallying) game in which Amalraj took advantage and hit me back but today I kept to my aggressive self and continued smashing volleys. In fact I have noticed that playing my game could give me similar results like todays, said a relieved Sharath Kamal after the final.
Amalraj,despite going down first two games fought hard to comeback. He cut back on his own errors and made his opponent work for points. Sharath who wasnt able to get the easy points anymore began committing unforced errors. The strategy paid off as he managed to win the next two games to square things up.
At two games all the momentum was with Amalraj at the start of the fifth game. He began on a positive note and the two players matched each other point for point. Unfortunately for him a return error saw the momentum slide once again from his favor as he lost a close game 11-13. From then on,knowing he had only a single game to win,it was all Sharath. The half chances were converted as Amalrajs hopes for a fight back were broken as Sharath romped home.
In the womens singles final between Mouma Das and Manika Batra,the latter humbled the experienced paddler 4-2 in six games to lift the title. Batra lost the first game and leveled in the second,but Mouma again took the lead in the third game to put pressure right back on the Delhi youngster.
Batra,who was constantly motivated by seniors like Sharath Kamal on the sidelines kept her cool and waited for Das to play freely. As soon as Das decided to take the offensive,she executed wayward strokes enabling Batra to garner the game. Das failed to learn from her mistakes and kept sending volleys out to give Batra the lead. Batra too displayed timely winners to win the fourth and reduce her opponent 11-8 in the sixth game.