Indian paddler Sharath storms into final at Oman Open Star Indian paddler will look to end decade long wait for an ITTF title

Muscat, March 16: Ace Indian paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory against Russia’s Kirill Skachkov to enter men’s singles final at the 2020 ITTF Challenger Plus Oman Open here on Sunday.

Fourth-seeded Sharath made a sensational comeback after being two games down to register 11-13, 11-13, 13-11, 11-9, 13-11, 8-11, 11-7 win in a thrilling seven-set semi-final that lasted for one hour and eight minutes. “Playing well here will help in getting better rankings and seedings especially keeping the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in mind. This time we had a lot of Indians participating here as all of us are looking for berth in Tokyo. My performance here will be significant for me personally as well as I am bracing up for the Olympics and hope I can make it count,” said the elated Indian paddler following his semi-final win.

With this victory the 37-year-old Indian veteran entered his first final at ITTF event since winning Egypt Open title in 2010. It is also first Challenger event final for Sharath. He will now take on top-seeded Marcos Freitas of Portugal in the summit clash.

Freitas entered final with a 5-11, 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-3 win over Harmeet Desai. India paddler Desai produced a gritty performance and was seen dominating the match at the initial stage. However, World No. 26 Freitas fought back well after being 3-1 down and went on to win the next three successive games to make his way into the final. With a good performance here, the World No. 87 Desai is expected to make notable progress in the upcoming world rankings.

RESULTS (men’s singles semi-finals): Achanta Sharath Kamal bt Kirill Skachkov (Russia) 11-13, 11-13, 13-11, 11-9, 13-11, 8-11, 11-7; Harmeet Desai lost to Marcos Freitas (Russia) 5-11, 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-3.       

Gujarat Super League Table Tennis's Five Franchise unveiled 

Table Tennis in Gujarat entered a new paradigm when Gujarat State Table Tennis Association (GSTTA) launched it's Gujarat Super League (GSL) on Friday at a gala function held at Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute Ahmedabad. GSTTA president Shri Vipul Mittra, IAS announced franchises, date and venue of GSL Season 1.

The Season 1 will be a four-day event scheduled at Surat in the month in May will feature five teams. The League will be played in two formats – first Robin followed by eliminator. The teams are Bhayani Star, Kataria Kings, Multimet Marvels, Shamal Squad and Tapti Tigers.  

The League has official sanction of GSTTA and TTFI and was borne out by the dignitaries on the dais – GSTTA president Shri Vipul Mittra, IAS, GSTTA honorary secretary and TTFI vice-president Shri Haresh Sangtani, GSTTA treasurer Amit Choksi, GSTTA selector Pathik Mehta and GSTTA chairman media committee Kushal Sangtani.

The League will be run by governing council comprising former international paddler Pathik Mehta, Anand District TT Association’s Kanti Bhuva, GSTTA assistant treasurer Rujul Patel, international referee Hari Pillai and GSTTA’s dis
Speaking on the occasion, GSTTA president Shri Vipul Mittra, IAS, lauded the efforts of officials and players for putting Gujarat TT on the national map. “Few years ago, nobody took Gujarat players seriously. But GSTTA worked diligently for the betterment of the game and players. Today, we have had two Gujaratis, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar, in the National Men’s final. It is a proud moment for GSTTA today, as we take another step for the development of the game by launching Gujarat Super League. Young players will surely benefit from this professional league,” said Mittra. 

He further added that GSTTA wanted to be first state association to launch it's league. "Traditional games like Kabaddi is also having a league. Gujarat is considered to be business hub and we expected GSTTA will get good support. I thank all franchise team owners for their trust. Media has always been supportive and wish they will continue their support even for the League," said Mittra.    

Meanwhile, GSTTA secretary Sangtani shared Government of India's directive to all sports federations and associations to postpone all major sporting activities till mid-April owing to Corona Virus Threat. “Gujarat Super League is just postponed by few days as we are following government guidelines. However, GSTTA is confident of many more joining the League as it captures the mind and heart of table tennis aficionados,” said Sangtani.  

Later, in the second half, auction of National and State coaches was held. In the National coach category, two teams battled for Parag Agrawal. Shamal Squad's bid outplayed Kataria Kings to buy the National coach. Kataria Kings were involved in another bout in the State coach category for Nilay Vyas. Kings had the last laugh against Bhayani Stars. Rest of the National and State coaches were bought at their respective base prices. 

Though no players were named as participants, with auction scheduled in few days, several big names including Gujarat’s pride Arjuna Awardee Harmeet Desai, current world number 2 in U-21 category Manav Thakkar, Sanil Shetty and Soumyajit Ghosh will go under the hammer. India’s international female paddlers including Krithwika Sinha Roy, Pooja Saharabuddhe and Reeth Rishya have also given their consent. Gujarat players Manush Shah, Ishaan Hingorani, Jignesh Jaiswal, Namna Jaiswal, Divya Gohil and Filzahfatema Kadri have also been named in auction pool.

Coaches bought at auction

Kataria Kings: Anshul Garg (National); Nilay Vyas (State)

Tapti Tigers: N Ravichandran (National); Bhoumik Oza (State)

Bhayani Stars: Deepak Malik (National); Vahed Malubhai (State)

Multimet Marvels: Somnath Ghosh (National); Mihir Gandhi (State)

Shamal Squad: Parag Agrawal (National); Lalan Doshi (State)

Prize Money: Rs:6 lakhs

Winners: Rs3.5Lakhs

Runners-Up: Rs2 Lakhs 

Player awards: Rs50,000