The Indian men’s table tennis team on Tuesday beat Singapore 3-1 to defend their crown at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The doubles pair of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Harmeet Desai won their match to give India the lead, before Clarence Chew defeated the experienced Sharath Kamal to make it 1-1. But then Sathiyan and Harmeet won their singles matches to win gold for India. This was India’s fifth gold at the ongoing Games.
Sathiyan was the star of the show as he first shepherded Harmeet to give India the perfect start in doubles and then produced great combative table tennis to win the pressure match to give India the 2-1 lead after veteran Sharath Kamal had been beaten.
Harmeet too was cool as a cucumber as he beat Sharath Kamal’s vanquisher Chew in straight games to give India the yellow metal.
World no. 121 Harmeet outsmarted 133rd-ranked Zhe Yu Clarence Chew 11-8, 11-5, 11-6 in the third singles to ensure India’s third gold men’s team medal in CWG history. The gold was India’s seventh since the sport’s inception in Manchester 2002 India were expected to beat Singapore but Clarence accounted for veteran Sharath Kamal in the first singles to level the match at 1-1.
Harmeet and Sathiyan had little difficulty in getting past Yong Izaak Que and Ye En Koen Pang in the opening doubles.
Sathiyan had given India a 2-1 lead with a 12-10, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4 victory over lower-ranked Pang.
The stand-out performance came from India’s third player, Harmeet.
Sharath had struggled to contain Clarence but Harmeet went on the offensive against the left-hander and ensured that he did not get room to go for his powerful forehand winners. Harmeet’s backhand was also on fire as he won majority of the long rallies.
In the first singles, Sharath went down 7-11, 14-12, 3-11,9-11 against Clarence.
Whenever, the Indian placed the ball deep on Clarence’s forehand, the return was a winner.
Two net chords helped Sharath in the second game but Clarence comfortably won the next two.
India had beaten a stronger opponent in Nigeria on Monday with Sharath stunning world number 15 Aruna Quadri. But his loss against a much lower ranked opponent on Tuesday showed rankings did not matter much in a multi sporting event.
India had won the team gold for the first in Melbourne 2006 before repeating the feat in Gold Coast four years ago.
It was also Sharath’s 10th medal in the Games history and he is set to add more with singles and doubles events to follow.
(With PTI inputs)
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