Finally, G. Sathiyan’s wait to lay his hands on the winner’s trophy of the National table tennis championship has ended.
Playing his fourth final in seven years, Sathiyan ended the jinx by beating nine-time winner Sharath Kamal 11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8 in under 50 minutes at Panchkula. The two Chennai-based players, ranked in the world’s top-50 bracket, produced some exciting times in patches though the title-battle failed to reach any great heights.
Two years ago, when Sharath broke Kamlesh Mehta’s record of eight titles by beating Sathiyan in the final, the champion was candid in admitting that his younger rival was clearly “unlucky” to lose while he was extremely lucky during the closing points of the decider.
Even on Tuesday, Sharath was gracious in acknowledging the new champion. “Sathiyan deserved to win this every bit. He played far better while I was lucky to win the third game. Though I did have my chances but could not take them. No excuses. I am very happy for Sathiyan.”
On his part, Sathiyan was understandably more relieved than excited. “The monkey is off my back. Winning the National title means a lot to me, having come so close in the past. My coach S. Raman (a four-time National champion) always maintained that winning the National title was no big deal if we came prepared for the challenges. All these years, we prepared for the Pro Tour and came to the Nationals and failed to make the right adjustments. This year, I must say, our preparations paid off.”
About letting go a 9-7 lead in the third game and allowing Sharath a chance to bounce back in the match, Sathiyan admitted, “Yes. At that stage, I did start thinking too far ahead and lost my focus for a while. But I am glad I got it right in the end.”
Sathiyan received Rs. 2.50 lakh besides a trophy while Sharath collected Rs. 1.65 lakh and the runner-up trophy.
In the morning, Sharath was tested to the hilt by a fighting Manav Thakkar while Sathiyan had an easier time against unseeded S. F. R. Snehit.
Final: G. Sathiyan (Pet) bt A. Sharath Kamal (Pet) 11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8; Semi-finals: Sharath bt Manav Thakkar (Pet) 11-8, 5-11, 14-12, 11-9, 9-11, 17-15; Sathiyan bt S. F. R. Snehit (Telg) 13-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-5.