Sharath Kamal, Sreeja Akula claim mixed gold
India’s table tennis legend Sharath Kamal, 40, teamed up with 24-year-old Sreeja Akula to win the mixed doubles gold in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Sunday. Sharath and Sreeja defeated Malaysian pair of Javen Choong and Karen Lyne 11-4, 9-11, 11-5, 11-6.
Earlier, Sharath reached the singles final, but Sathiyan Gnanasekaran lost his semi-final contest. Sharath defeated home country’s Paul Drinkhall 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-8 to reach his second CWG final.
The only other time Sharath, fourth-seeded here, made it to the final, he returned with a gold in the 2006 edition in Melbourne. Third seed Sathiyan, however, failed to set up an all-Indian final, losing 5-11, 11-4, 8-11, 9-11, 9-11 to second seed Liam Pitchford of England. Sharath will play Pitchford in the gold medal match on Monday.
Earlier in the day, the seasoned pair of Sharath and Sathiyan was outsmarted by familiar foes Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford of England in the doubles final. The Indian duo had to settle for silver for the second successive edition after losing 11-8, 8-11, 3-11, 11-7, 4-11 to the English combine.
It was a repeat of the 2018 final in Gold Coast and to the disappointment of the Indians, it was the same result.
In women’s singles, Sreeja suffered a heartbreaking loss as she went down to Australia’s Yangzi Liu 3-4 in a close bronze medal play-off. Sreeja lost 11-3, 6-11, 2-11, 11-7, 13-15, 11-9, 7-11 after staging a slew of comebacks in a match that lasted more than 90 minutes.
The Hyderabad-born paddler made a confident start against Liu who appeared quite nervous and the former took advantage of that to race to a 11-3 win the first game. The Australian bounced back with a more attacking intent and clinched the second game 11-6 to draw level. Buoyed by her comeback in the second game, Liu continued from where she left off and won the third game 11-2.
With the match all set at 2-2, it was Liu once again, who went ahead with a tight game and made it 15-13 in the fifth game. In the sixth, Sreeja showed her class winning 11-9, after trailing 1-7 at one point.