CHENNAI: India’s male paddlers were on the cusp of creating history at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden. Leading 2-0 against Austria and with the chance of making the top-12 for the first time, the group succumbed to pressure and lost 2-3. A Sharath Kamal, who has been in imperious form, gave India the perfect start as he accounted for World No 45 Stefan Fegerl. Then India’s highestranked paddler G Sathiyan got the better of Robert Gardos.
Harmeet Desai lost a tight encounter to Daniel Habesohn and from there, the slide began. Sharath and Sathiyan lost both reverse singles ties to hand the tie to Austria. They finished fifth in their group and now will have to fight it out for classification positions between 13-18. “When the draw was done, we got the toughest group possible. Our aim was to upset the top nations. We did one better, managed to win two and almost came close to doing something special,” World No 48 Sharath told Express. “Personally, it has been a satisfying tournament.
These close finishes are really important for the youngsters. They will learn a lot from this.” Incidentally, the Chennai paddler has won six singles ties in the tournament, the most for any Indian ever. After a glut of medals in the Commonwealth Games, expectations sky-rocketed. This might serve as a reality check but in reality, performances have kept improving. “The level of competition is much higher here. Even the slightest lapse in concentration is punished.
Before this year, we have either played in the first division or have struggled in the championship division. We have lost matches by the slightest of margins which shows improvement. We now have to try and finish as high as possible,” the squad’s Indian coach Arup Basak added. The men will now face Singapore in a repeat of the CWG final late on Thursday before meeting France on Friday. India just need to avoid finishing in the bottom two and maintain their current world ranking to ensure further participation in the championship division. Women finally win The women finished last in their group.
In their first classification match, they managed to overcome Luxembourg 3-1. They will face Hungary next. “Before the CWG, nobody gave the women any chance. The girls now know what to expect. They know all work done now is to prepare for the bigger challenges like Asian Games,” Arup opined. firstname.lastname@example.org