CHENNAI: India’s campaign at the World Table Tennis Championships may have ended on Saturday but there are positives to take away from the event. While the country’s top-ranked paddler A Sharath Kamal made it to the Round of 32, the women’s duo of Mouma Das and Manika Batra created history by reaching the quarterfinals.
The dominant theme from the championship was that the senior-most players from the men’s and women’s contingents made the opportunity count in Dusseldorf. Something that both Sharath and Mouma are proud of.
China’s Lin Gaoyuan (World No 40) ended Sharath’s hopes 11-13, 11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8, 11-4. This was the joint-best effort in this event for the World No 54. He had reached the same stage two years ago at Suzhou, China, where he pulled out after suffering a hip injury.
“From a personal point of view, I’m happy with the overall campaign. I could have done better against Lin. I was ahead initially in the decider but I let my foot off the pedal. He took full advantage,” Sharath told Express. He had earlier beaten Cantero Jesus of Spain (World No 132) 4-1 and World No 24 Kou Lei of Ukraine 4-0.
Sharath thinks he is in the best phase of his career. And the 34-year-old points out the reasons he believes has led to his renaissance. “I’m in the best of shape physically. I worked really hard on physical fitness post injury and it has really helped me in my play.
“Also, after working hard with my personal coach Linus Mernsten of Sweden, I have really improved my backhand. It used to be my weakness. Now, I actually win points off it,” he added. Interestingly, Sharath had to play his matches in the main hall as he was a favourite of the locals who wanted to watch him in action!
Mouma and Manika lost to top seeds and Olympic gold-medallists Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen 4-0 (11-7, 11-7, 11-1, 11-3) in the quarters. They reached that stage after the Dutch-Polish combination of Li Jie and Li Quian gave a walkover after the latter was reportedly hospitalised after falling sick.
“It’s great to create history. Both me and Manika have been playing well together so we were confident of doing well. We gave a good fight in the quarterfinals but the left-right combination did us in,” Mouma said. Incidentally, she created another record by becoming the first Asian to take part in 15 World TableTennis Championships.
Both paddlers agreed that the long camp at the venue helped preparations. “Since Max (coach Massimo Costantini) has come back, we’re taking part in longer camps. It’s helpful as we get to train with superior opponents and better facilities. This routine will definitely help in our quest to do well at the 2018 Commonwealth Games,” Mouma signed off.