New Delhi: The men paddlers of India, led by A. Sharath Kamal, blanked out Singapore 3-0 to enter the semifinals and the medal zone of the 26th ITTF-Asian Table Tennis Championships at Pyeongchang, Korea, today.
It was India’s third semifinal entry in the team championships so far.
But the first rubber of the quarterfinal was not easy despite the final scoreline. After some struggles in the first and second rubbers, India did well to close out on the Singaporeans.
Sharath began on a bright note against the 17-year-old Izaac Quek. But the teenager took the next game to level the score. Nevertheless, the world No. 63 had no answers to the Indian veteran’s guiles and conceded the lead. But in the next, the youngster showed his skills on the table and restored parity despite Sharth leading 9-6.
World No. 105 Sharath was in a spot of bother in the decisive fifth as the Singapore boy was two points away (9-6) to seal the first tie. However, Sharath brought all his experience to the table and went 10-9 up, but the fight was not over. Eventually, it ended when Sharath clinched it on the third match point to put India up 1-0 (11-1, 10-12, 11-8, 11-13, 14-12).
“In the fourth, he (Izaac) came back well. But I had a firm grip on the game. In the fifth, however, I trailed throughout. It was good I eventually won,” said Sharath.
Speaking on the young talent, Sharath said he recently lost to the Singaporean in Singapore Smash. “He is a good prospect. I beat him in the CWG, but he was superb in Singapore, and I went 0-3 down to him. It was a good outing, and in the team meeting, we planned that I would play the first rubber,” he said.
Sathiyan (World No. 102) led 2-0 against Koen Yew En Pang. But the Singaporen fought back a bit in the extended third game, which Sathiyan won 11-6, 11-8, 12-10. Harmeet, the top-ranked Indian in the world at No. 61, took his time before dominating Clarence Chew Zhe Yu as the Indian completed the task. Harmeet won 11-9, 11-4, 11-6.
The Indian men will meet Chinese Taipei, the second seed, in the semifinals on Wednesday. Taipei beat Iran 3-2.
The Indian women went 0-3 down to Japan in the quarterfinals. Mima Ito beat Ayhika Mukherjee 11-7, 15-13, 11-8, Manika Batra went down 7-11, 9-11, 11-9, 3-11 to Hina Hayata and Miu Hirano downed Sutirtha Mukherjee 11-7, 4-11, 6-11,5-11.
The Indian women will play the fifth position matches next against Singapore.