Visakhapatnam: A. Sharath Kamal claimed his sixth Institutional singles title when he beat Manush Shah of RBI 4-2 in the singles final of the AAI-50th Inter-state National championships at the Swarna Bharati Stadium today.
But the sixth one took six years. Nevertheless, the second seed earned the well-deserving honour after other top seeds fell by the wayside in the pre-quarters and quarterfinals.
Sharath did not have to press hard for the win as the left-handed Manush, appearing in his first final of the championships, could not play as well as he did so far. Maybe, he felt overawed by the occasion and his colossal opponent, with ten national titles to his credit.
The RBI lad was rendered hors de combat in the crucial final, and Sharath did not have to work hard, despite dropping two games. Sharath admitted it got easy. “With top players, who existed early, made things easy for me. Manush played well, but I had good control,” said the champion. The win was worth Rs. 96,000.
Sreeja knew how to turn it on at the right moment. In the team event, Moumita Dutta routed Sreeja. But the Railways woman suddenly failed to regain her touch in the singles. Did Sreeja play any differently against her than she did on the third day? No. Invariably, the players conserve energy and hide their bagful of tricks for the singles, which offers good prize money. Sreeja took home Rs. 96,000 and 120 ranking points, while Moumita had to satisfy with the silver medal and half of what Sreeja got in prize money and 80 points.
RBI will not grudge that Sreeja failed to take the team across the line in the final but can celebrate the singles gold the Hyderabadi pulled off. For a brief period in the third game, Moumita inched ahead with a slender lead. But she was awful and played rashly to bring her own downfall after running into a great form in the tournament.
Sharath Kamal and Manush Shah struggled in the semi-finals but prevailed over their rivals, Sanil Shetty and Snehit, respectively, to enter the singles final.
Sanil had the best opportunity when he led 2-0. But Sharath stormed back into form and demolished the confidence of the left-hander to go 3-2 ahead. In the sixth game, Sanil held three game points but let Sharath claw his way back and deuce. The left-hander another three to level the score, but Sharath capitalised on his third match point to win.
Snehit led 2-1 but wilted under the pressure exerted by Manush Shah to bow out 2-4 in the semi-final. The left-hander from RBI did well to level the score and never looked back after that. Snehit failed to counter the left-hander’s angled returns, and his backhand did not come off well on the day.
Moumita continued her best form of life to enter the women’s singles final. She beat Archana Kamath 4-1. In the second, Sreeja Akula weathered the onslaught from Diya Chitale to win 4-2.
For one moment, it seemed Archana was returning to her earlier form, but Moumita mixed her shots well, and a confused Archana never came to terms after winning the extended second game. Sreeja had the match in her grips after a lengthy first game. Leading 3-0, Diya had to work her way out and reduced the margin, taking the fourth and fifth games. But Sreeja closed out on the sixth game for a shot at the crown.
Manush Shah and Diya claimed the mixed doubles title after beating the Railways’ pair of Akash Pal and Poymantee Baisya 3-0. But Akash made amends and, in the company of Ronit Bhanja, defeated AAI’s duo of Deepit Patil and KJ Aakash 3-0 to win the men’s doubles gold. Similarly, Poymantee and Sutirtha combined well to outsmart Suhana Saini of Haryana and Yashaswhini Ghorpade of PSPB 3-1 to capture the women’s doubles crown.
Men’s Singles: Final: Sharath Kamal (PSPB) bt Manush Shah (RBI) 11-6, 6-11, 15-13, 11-6, 7-11, 11-5. Semi-finals: Manush Shah bt SFR Snehit (AAI) 10-12, 11-7, 11-13, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4; Sharath Kamal bt Sanil Shetty (PSPB) 10-12, 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-5, 15-13.
Men’s Doubles: Final: Ronit Bhanja/Akash Pal (RSPB) bt Deepit R Patil/KJ Akash (AAI) 11-9, 11-8, 11-5.
Women’s Singles: Final: Sreeja Akula (RBI) bt Moumita Dutta (RSPB) 11-6, 11-7, 13-11, 11-5. Semi-finals: Moumita Dutta bt Archana Kamath (PSPB) 11-4, 12-14, 16-14, 11-5, 12-10; Sreeja Akula bt Diya Chitale (RBI) 16-14, 11-6, 11-6, 4-11, 7-11, 11-8.
Women’s Doubles: Final: Sutirtha Mukherjee/Poymantee Baisya (RSPB) bt Suhana Saini (Har)/Yashashwini Ghorpade (PSPB) 11-5, 11-2, 6-11, 12-10.
Mixed Doubles: Final: Manush Shah/Diya Chitale (RBI) bt Akash Pal/Poymantee Baisya (RSPB) 11-8, 11-7, 11-3.