The Indian men’s table tennis team withstood a tricky challenge from Singapore to emerge victorious in the final and retain their Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham on Tuesday.
Harmeet Desai raised his game at the right time in the fourth match to give India 3-1 win in the contest. World No. 121 Harmeet outsmarted the 133rd-ranked Zhe Yu Clarence Chew 11-8, 11-5, 11-6 in the third singles. The gold was India’s seventh overall since the sport’s introduction in Manchester 2002.
India had won the team gold for the first time in Melbourne in 2006, before repeating the feat in Gold Coast four years ago. India were expected to beat Singapore, but Clarence stunned veteran Sharath Kamal in the first singles to level the match 1-1 after Harmeet and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran had little difficulty in getting past Yong Izaak Que and Ye En Koen Pang in the opening doubles. Sharath was beaten 7-11, 14-12, 3-11, 9-11 by Clarence. Sathiyan then gave India a 2-1 lead with a 12-10, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4 victory over the lower-ranked Pang.
However, the contest was far from over with Singapore desperate to claw back into the contest. But Harmeet was ready and had the answers. Unlike Sharath, Harmeet went on the offensive against the left-handed Clarence and ensured that he did not get room to go for his powerful forehand winners. Harmeet’s backhand was also on fire as he won majority of the long rallies. His service variation also worked.
India had beaten a stronger opponent in Nigeria on Monday with Sharath stunning world No. 15 Aruna Quadri. But his loss against a much lower-ranked opponent on Tuesday showed rankings did not matter much at a big event.
“Both their (Singapore) left-handers went all out as if they had nothing to lose. They were firing rockets,” said Sharath, who collected his 10th CWG medal, said. But while he failed to beat Clarence, Harmeet did. “The difference was in Harmeet’s serves. My serves, he (Clarence) was receiving really well, I never felt comfortable. But Harmeet was fantastic with his serves, the way he attacked, the whole flow was perfect,” Sharath, 40, said.