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Sharath Kamal wins men's TT gold

Last updated on: March 26, 2006 15:57 IST
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Achanta Sharath Kamal wrote another golden chapter for Indian table tennis, becoming the country's first individual gold medal-winning paddler at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Indian Oil Corporation officer overpowered Australian William Henzell in seven gruelling games that lasted over 35 minutes.

The tall and lanky Indian won 11-5, 8-11, 5-11, 11-8, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8.

With this win, Kamal stamped his authority in the game among Commonwealth countries. He had earlier won the Commonwealth Championship in 2004 in Kuala Lumpur.

Kamal, architect of India's first ever team gold in the Games, concluded the country's campaign in the sports extravaganza on a victorious note.

- Commonwealth Games coverage

This was also the best-ever showing by the Indian paddlers at the Games as they finished with two gold and a bronze.

''I was a little surprised with the way William played today,'' said Sharath after the win.

''I played against him in Sweden two years ago and at that time he was very edgy and tentative and I had no problem in beating him. But today he had completely changed his tactics and that is why the match went so far.

"I normally play very fast but William played slow and close to the net and I had to change my tactics to overpower him,'' said the Indian.

Kamal started very aggressively, winning the first game 11-5 in just four minutes. He attacked the flanks and his powerful forehands rattled Williams.

The Australian, who for the last 10 years has been staying in Sweden, slowed down the proceedings in the second game. Williams played near the net and took a 4-1 lead; the Indian, in a bid to overtake him, gave away many negative points and committed too many unforced errors.

Backed by the crowd, Williams came up with some stunning shots, giving no chance to Kamal to reply. The Australia soon raced to a 7-3 lead. Sharath rallied well to take three points in a row but then hit wide an easy return and followed it with a return into the net to lose the game 8-11.

Charged up with this success, William went into the attack mode and Sharath suddenly seemed to have lost concentration. The Aussie took a 5-1 lead but three points in a row by the Indian reduced the gap. However, Sharath messed up his service, which was his strong point, and allowed his rival to take the lead to 9-4 and after that it was matter of seconds for William to clinch the game and forge ahead 2-1.

The Indian regrouped himself in the fourth game and started playing close to the net. This had an unsettling effect on William, who was expecting the Indian to concede negative points.

Williams led 5-2 but Sharath, with clever mix of attack and defence and good forehands, collected four points in a row to go up 6-5 but then returned wide to be level at 6-6.

However, the Indian was far superior in all aspects of the game. He kept up the pressure by playing close to the net and not allowing long rallies. His powerful returns left Williams stranded on many occasions and the IOC officer then earned three quick points to finish the game at 11-8 in his favour, levelling the match 2-2.

The fifth game was a roller-coaster with the lead changing hands frequently. Williams opened up and attacked, Sharath blunted his rival's charge and the game went on 3-3, 6-6, 8-8.

At this juncture the Indian, with super display of forehand cross courts, garnered three straight points to claim the game 11-8 and went up 3-2.

The sixth game was a tense affair as Sharath tried to claim the match, while, Williams was making a desperate bid to draw parity.

With the scoreline reading 4-4 and 7-7, the tie became very engrossing but at this crucial stage, the umpire called for a service fault on Sharath's serve and this totally rattled the Indian who lost his rhythm and the game at 7-11 (3-3).

In the decider, Sharath pulled up his socks and steadied his game. The two were level 4-4, 6-6, 7-7 but after that the Indian went ahead 10-7. William managed a point but it was too little and too late as Sharath smashed his way to victory and gold.

''It is just fantastic,'' said Sharath.

''I was very confident of a win but winning a gold for the country at this level of competition makes you feel proud,'' he added.

''Sharath was simply unstoppable,'' said manager Dhanraj Choudhary.

''He was head and shoulders above William, but allowed the Aussie bit too much of liberty and that is why it went into seven games.

"Overall table tennis has done India proud in the Games. We won two gold -- the men's Individual and men's team event -- for the first time ever and a bronze in women's team event. It has been a great show,'' he added.

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