Veteran Sharath Kamal broke Kamlesh Mehta’s long-standing record of most national titles by winning his ninth crown following a gruelling final against India teammate G Sathiyan here on Wednesday. An exciting final was on the cards with world number 30 taking on 31st ranked Sathiyan. And what a final it turned out to be with Sharath securing it 4-3.
Sathiyan matched Sharath stroke to stroke, yet, he failed to win the elusive maiden trophy despite reaching the final on three occasions. In fact, Sharath should have sewn it up earlier. But he could not hold his nerves despite leading 10-8 in the fifth game and Sathiyan pulled it off nicely at 12-10 to go 3-2 up. The pressure on Sharath was too much as he had to win the next to stay in the match and he did it in style. But the decider took the toll on both players and the extended game was won on the third match-point by Sharath while Sathiyan just missed one.
“The pressure was on both of us. But whatever I did to take the ninth title off my mind, it was coming back again and again with everyone remembering me. Similarly, Sathiyan was going for his first title and he was equally pressured,” said Sharath.
Giving full credit to Sathiyan, Sharath said, “This final was by far the best in terms of quality. That explains the ferocity and seriousness with which Sathiyan attacked from both flanks and kept me engaged.”
Youngster Archana Kamath lifted the women’s trophy for the first time. Her confidence had soared after beating CWG gold medallist Manika Batra in the semifinals and it was evident twice in the final when after trailing 4-7 in the third and again 6-10 in the fourth, the girl from Karnataka came back strongly to go 3-1 up. But in the fifth, some loose shots didn’t help her as she gave away too many negatives to Krittwika Sinha Roy of West Bengal.
However, in the sixth she sealed the fate of Krittwika, who was chasing her first title. Archana dedicated the win to three important people, coach Vijay Sarathy, Judit Magos Engle, wife of former India coach Peter Engel, and her cousin sister, who passed away a fortnight ago under tragic circumstances.
“I have been very attached to her,” said the Youth Olympics quarterfinalist. “I think the title has come at the right time. I always wanted to win the crown. I know even my opponent (Krittiwika) would have liked to do that. I am happy I could do accomplish it,” said an emotional Archana.
Archana Kamath accomplished something which Archana Rao (Viswanath) could not do after reaching her first final in 1992 Goa Nationals. The 18-year-old has thus become the second paddler from Karnataka after Usha Sunder Raj, a five-time national champion, to win the crown.