Indian challenge ends in table tennis, Sharath Kamal loses to reigning Olympic champion Ma Long of China

Tokyo Olympics 2020: India’s most experienced and star table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal lost her third round match 1-4 to reigning Olympic and world champion Ma Long of China here today. With this, the Indian challenge in the table tennis competition of Tokyo Olympics has also ended. The 39-year-old Sharath, who is playing his fourth Olympics, gave a tough fight to his formidable opponent in the first three games of the third round match but was eventually defeated 7-11, 11-8, 11-13, 4- in a 46-minute match. Lost 11, 4-11.

Both Sharath and Manika Batra are the first Indian players to enter the third round. G Sathiyan and Sutirtha Mukherjee, however, could not progress beyond the second round. In mixed doubles, Sharath and Manika were considered as medal contenders but if the draw had been easier in that and in men’s singles, the results could have been different.

Sharat gave his best performance

His performance in the round of 32 match against the Chinese legend has convinced Sharath that he will also be able to compete in the Paris Olympics, which are three years away. Sharath said after the match against Long, “It was the best match and it was probably my best match and best tournament I have played.” The Chinese player also admitted that Sharath had made the match tough for him. Long said, “It was a tough match. Every match in the Olympics is tough. It doesn’t matter which opponent or country you’re playing against. I prepared to overcome such challenges. The third game was important.” After the win, the last two games were better.

Sharath, who made a stellar comeback against Tiago Apollonia of Portugal in the previous match, showed his spirit to come back against Long as well. After losing the first game, he won the second game and then saved three game points in the third game but the match remained one-sided in the last two games. Sharath gave a good challenge to Long at the start of the first game. Once he came back to level the score at 5-5 but Long scored four points in a row and then managed to win the first game on the second game point. Sharath surprised even Long, who has won three Olympic Games gold medals in the second game with his forehand return and controlled play. The Indian made a comeback from the start and then took an 8-4 lead. Long then scored four points in a row but Sharath bounced back and won the game with a fine forehand return.

Sharat fought till the end

Long was leading 6-4 in the third game but Sharath soon took the lead. Long scored two consecutive points at 8-8, giving him two game points but Sharath kept his spirit up. He saved a total of three game points. The Chinese player took a ‘time out’ and took the lead in the match at the fourth game point. Long started the fourth game with a strong 6-0 lead and despite Sharath’s efforts, managed to win the game in seven minutes. The same story was repeated in the fifth game as well. The Indian player made mistakes under pressure as Long took a 9-3 lead. Sharath had no answer for Long’s crisp smash.

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