75 years of independence, 75 iconic moments from Indian sports: No 56 –  The legend of Sharath Kamal

India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes.  Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.

The Legend of Sharath Kamal

Sharath Kamal added a new layer of greatness to his legendary status in Indian table tennis. This 40-year-old champion added a record-improving 10th National singles title by dethroning G. Sathiyan, a worthy rival 10 years younger, in an enthralling title-clash in Shillong.

Unlike what one saw after Sharath’s nine previous triumphs, the veteran paddler made no secret of his joy. After a quick handshake with Sathiyan and his coach S. Raman, Sharath took off. Like a high-hurdler, he twice jumped over the surrounds used in setting up the field of play and completed a victory lap much to the joy of the spectators.

For the record, in 20 seasons, Sharath has figured in 15 finals, winning 10 of them. This speaks of the man’s commitment, form and fitness over two decades. The double-digit National singles also came at a time when some of the top players across several disciplines, particularly racquet sports, prefer to stay away from the domestic circuit, leave alone the National championship.

Interestingly for the last three years, Sharath and Sathiyan have faced off in the National finals. In 2020, Sharath escaped to victory in seven sets to surpass Kamlesh Mehta’s tally of eight titles that stood since 1995. Sathiyan avenged that loss by winning his maiden Nationals in 2021.

This time, Sathiyan looked all set to retain the title after leading 3-1 and made it 10-all after saving two set-points to move within two points of victory. Staring at defeat, Sharath enjoyed a slice of luck when his return rolled over the net-cord to give him a third set point. The champion then produced a stunning forehand block that whizzed past Sathiyan and left him with a wry smile.

(This article was first published on 11 March, 2022)

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