Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra added another feather to the cap of Indian table tennis when they bagged the bronze medal in the Asian Games mixed doubles category in Jakarta on Wednesday.
This was India’s second medal from the Games. The men’s team had won the bronze on Tuesday to give India their first table tennis medal in Asian Games history and the mixed doubles combination followed suit with a special performance in the pre-quarterfinals and quarterfinals.
In the semi-final, however, they came across the might of the Chinese as they went down 11-9, 11-5, 11-13, 11-4, 11-8 against the teenage combination of Chuqin Wang/Yingsha Sun.
The Chinese were first to get off the blocks as they won the first two games before Sharath and Batra could find their rhythm. The Indian pair, however, needed six game points after taking a 10-6 lead to reduce the deficit as Wang’s powerful backhand continued to trouble them.
But that was the only silver lining in the otherwise one-sided semi-final as Wang and Sun won the next two games easily to set up an all-Chinese final.
Earlier in the quarterfinals, Sharath and Batra assured themselves of a medal after beating North Korea An Ji Song and Cha Hyon Sim 3-2 in a thrilling quarter-final match.
Despite trailing early in the match, Sharath and Batra came back strongly to defeat Ji Song An and Hyo Sim Cha 4-11, 12-10, 6-11 11-6 11-8 in a contest that lasted 38 minutes.
Sharath used all his experience to save three game points in the second game after losing the first to level the scores and keep them in the hunt. Though the Indians lost the next game rather easily, they were in complete control in the next two to ensure that they would return with a medal from Jakarta.
However, the bigger win for Sharath and Batra came in the pre-quarterfinals where they upset third seed Korean combination of Sangsu Lee and Jihee Jeon.
“It was a hard-fought win. At 1-2 we thought it was going to be difficult but never gave up. We came back nicely to win the fourth game convincingly. But at 6-6 it could have been anybody’s match and we were luck to grab on the chances,” said Sharath.
“Sharath bhaiyya [brother] was always encouraging and said we can do it. I am happy I could live up to everybody’s expectations,” Batra said.