Indian table tennis players looking to cause ripples

August 17th, 2008 - 9:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 18 (IANS) Pulling off a few upsets and excelling themselves - that’s the most the Indian paddlers could expect from the discipline as they begin their individual campaign at the Beijing Olympics Monday. While Neha Agarwal takes on Lay Jiam Fang of Australia in the preliminary round of women’s singles, men’s competitor Sharath Kamal is set to meet the winner of Monday’s match between Alfredo Carneros of Spain and Egyptian Adeel Massaad Tuesday. Sharath has got a bye in the preliminary round.

Nothing big should be expected of 18-year-old Neha who would be competing in her first Olympics.

Sharath, though, is no greenhorn and is hoping to earn a quarterfinal place after surprising some big names in table tennis.

Country’s top men’s paddler is confident of taking on Carneros, whose ranking and experience might see him clear the first round hurdle with ease.

“I play in the same club in Spain where Carneros also plays. Though I have played him many time before and know his strength and weaknesses. Though it can be said of him as well,” Sharath says.

Sharath, regarded as one of the best talents the country has produced in the sport, has improved by several notches since his second round finish at the Athens Olympics.

The 26-year-old player is currently ranked 73 in the world singles chart. The Chennai player has gained considerable international exposure in these four years with some major victories under his belt.

“I am in good shape and form. I will be aiming to be in the last 16. For that I will have to cause a few upsets and I am looking to do that,’ Sharath says about his expectations from Beijing.

The last two years have been phenomenal for Sharath. He led India to an incredible two gold medals in the Commonwealth Games (CWG), winning the singles title and then inspiring the team to another yellow metal triumph with an upset over formidable Singapore.

The Melbourne Commonwealth Games not only made the paddler a recognisable face in Indian sport, but expectations from him soared. Since then, it has been a steady upward climb for Sharath, who cracked the top-100 in singles ranking and achieved his career-best 73.

But more importantly, Sharath says, the highs of the last two years have instilled a self-belief that he can take on the formidable Asian players with confidence.

“It has been a huge difference since I played in Athens. I have gained in world rankings and made a lot of technical correction. The experience of playing in Athens will be of big help.” Sharath says.

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