After the women’s team’s historic gold medal on Sunday, the men followed suit and clinched the top spot on the podium by defeating Nigeria in an one-sided table tennis final in the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast on Monday.
Achanta Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran lived up to their reputation as the leading singles players before the latter paired up with Harmeet Desai in doubles to help India thrash Nigeria 3-0 for the second men’s team gold medal in history. Back in 2006, with Sharath Kamal in the team, the men’s team had won gold in Melbourne.
Earlier in the day, India won the semi-final by defeating two-time defending champions Singapore.
This is India’s second gold in the men’s team event at the Games, emulating their previous best performance in 2006 in Melbourne, another campaign that Sharath was a part of. And it is also the first time since the racket sport’s induction into the Commonwealth Games program that India has topped both categories.
Gold quest in Gold Coast
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After Manika Batra fired India to a historic triumph over Singapore on Sunday, it was Sharath Kamal’s turn to star on Monday.
Monday’s final against Nigeria was rather straight forward for the men as compared to the semifinal against Singapore, against whom they had to work much harder.
Kamal, who has four CWG gold medals to his name now, set the ball rolling by beating Bode Abiodun in the opening singles. The experienced Indian was sluggish to start with, losing the first game.
From the second game onwards, 48th-ranked Kamal was his usual self, unleashing forehand drives on either side of the table. His power and range of strokes was too hot to handle for the Nigerian as Kamal completed a 4-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-9 win.
“I made mistakes while receiving service from Bode (Abiodun). He played the first game so well. I changed my strategy from the second game and served more to his backhand, not middle and forehand. I made sure I was the first one to attack. I think we were lucky, it was good we didn’t play Nigeria in the morning and of course we were fortunate Quadri Aruna did not play,” said Kamal.
Just like his senior teammate, G Sathiyan too fumbled in the first game but bounced back in style to outplay 2002 CWG singles gold medallist Segun Toriola 10-12, 11-3, 11-3, 11-4. “I was very confident. I moved well and quick to attack because I couldn’t afford giving him time to play his strokes. As for doubles, Harmeet and I played strong from the very first point and it became easy in the end,” said G Sathiyan.
India was now one step away from the gold and 46th-ranked Sathiyan teamed up with Harmeet Desai to cross the finishing line. The Indian duo defeated Abiodun and Olajide Omotayo 11-8, 11-5, 11-3 to complete a memorable triumph.
The Indian side also benefited from the absence of world no. 26 Aruna Quadri, Nigeria’s highest-ranked player. Toriola is ranked second highest at 166.
India’s unprecedented effort at the Gold Coast Games is also a fair reflection of the sport’s fast improving standard in the country. As many as six players are in the top-100 of the men’s world rankings and two in the women’s standings.
With individual and doubles medals still on offer, India’s performance is already a marked improvement from its disappointing showing in Glasgow four years ago when it just managed just a silver in men’s doubles. It was none other than Nigeria who beat India for bronze in the previous edition.