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Indian paddlers end hard-fought Asian campaign with three bronze medals

Express News Service

NEW DELHI; India’s 2021 ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships campaign came to an end in Doha on Monday with both the doubles pairs — A Sharath Kamal-G Sathiyan and Manav Thakkar-Harmeet Desai — adding a couple of bronze medals, taking India’s tally to three for the competition.

It could have been much sweeter for both pairs as they ran their higher-ranked opponents close but in the end, it just was not meant to be. Eighth seeds Harmeet and Manav stretched South Korean fifth-seeded pair of Woojin Jang and Jonghoon Lim before bowing out 4-11, 6-11, 10-12, 9-11, 11-8 in 44 minutes while sixth-seeded pair of Sharath and Sathiyan withstood the onslaught from Japanese second seeds Yukiya Uda and Shunsuke Togami for 33 minutes, going down 5-11, 9-11, 11-13.

What was particularly impressive in Harmeet and Manav’s semifinal run was their straight game demolition of top seeds Noshad Alamiyan-Nima Alamian in the quarterfinal. Even in their last-four clash, the Indian pair came down from two games down to level proceedings. In the decider, the Indian pair went 6-4 up. But the Koreans seized the initiative (6-6), and it proved costly. The experienced Korean, upping the ante, ensured its place in the final.  

“We are improving as a doubles pair and our understanding has improved leaps and bounds. We had played together in a few events prior to this and that has definitely boosted our confidence and I’m sure if we keep at it, we can progress even further and possibly win something in the future,” Harmeet said.

Sharath and Sathiyan had combined to reach the quarterfinals in the previous iteration and going one step further was the goal from the start. Having not had the chance to practice together too much, the task was not going to be easy. And having accomplished that and added to India’s medal tally, the pair fought tooth and nail to change the colour of the medal. In the first two games, the pair were not at their best but in the decider, they played much more aggressive and took it to deuce. At 11-11, the left-handed Uda returned superbly to put Japan 12-11 and get the breakpoint to seal the Indians’ fate.

“What this tournament has shown us is the fine margins between victory and defeat. In hindsight, we could have been more aggressive in our serve and return game. In Asia, unlike other countries, the play is much faster and a lot of emphasis is put on the third ball. On any other day, we could have come back with a different coloured medal but we will learn and these three medals are testament to our rise in the sport,” Sathiyan added. 

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