Sat, 18 Sep 2021

By Vishesh RoyNew Delhi [India], July 29 (ANI): India paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal might have bowed out of the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, but his fighting spirit against world champion Ma Long in the third round impressed one and all. Kamal is himself happy about the way he fought it out against Long and made the world champion nervous during the clash.

In an interaction with ANI, Kamal spoke about his campaign at the Olympics, his match against world champion Long, and how difficult it was to take part in the Olympics in such unprecedented times.

"I think this was my best performance in all the Olympics games I have played till now. Really happy that I could put myself in this place both physically and mentally. Prepared a lot, complete planning went into it with my table tennis coach Rajat Kamal and Shrinivas Rao. Fitness coach, my mental trainer, and dietician planned with me on where and how do we get into preparation and make me peak at the right time. We worked really hard so I am really happy to be in this place currently. It also motivates me to continue," said Kamal.

Kamal on Tuesday bowed out of the men's singles event after Ma Long defeated him 4-1 in the match that lasted for 46 minutes. "Yes, I think the match against Ma Long is one of the best that I have ever played. And the way, I carried myself and the way I had an attitude of giving all I have in the fight against Ma Long, that I am there to take it away from him. That is what stood out in that game.

"If you look at the scoreline, it does not justify what I actually did in the match. I am happy to put Ma Long in a space where he did not want to be in. Actually, I let it slip from that position," said Kamal.

"I am really happy with the way I could corner Ma Long and get my attacks on and put him on defence. I got him completely stressed, don't know whether he expected that from me. I went into the match that it's going to be 50-50, and I will make it as tough as possible for Ma Long to win every point. That was what everybody is talking about, it is not the result but the way I played that match," he added.

The 39-year-old also said that during the clash against Long, he noticed how his opponent was getting nervous. The experienced paddler also reckons that his campaign is India's best when it comes to table tennis at the Olympics.

"Yes, Ma Long did get very nervous, I noticed that. Even before the TV could notice Ma Long nervousness, I noticed that while playing against him. The way he was serving, the way he was taking time, if you look at the second set, it had just begun but he was taking a lot of time coming onto the table and serving. I could sense he was feeling under pressure and that pressure was being built by me," said Kamal.

"This has been the best table tennis campaign for India at the Olympics. Manika Batra reaching Round 3, me playing Round 3 for the first time. Sutirtha Mukherjee playing Round 2 and winning against a higher-ranked player in Round 1. We did very well and I am sure in the next years to come, we will be a very strong team," he added.

When asked about the challenges of playing the Games in the backdrop of COVID-19 restrictions, Kamal said: "This Olympic Games was played in unprecedented times. The experience was really fantastic, I had expected more difficulties in terms of following the protocols and handling the restrictions, but we just got used to it with a period of time. I am really happy that the Games have happened." (ANI)

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