Sharath outduels Spanish flatmate, moves into second round (Lead)

August 19th, 2008 - 3:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 19 (IANS) Pitted against an opponent he trains with and shares an apartment in Spain, Achanta Sharath Kamal rallied from a first game loss to beat Alfredo Carneros in the first round of the men’s singles at the Olympic table tennis competition here Tuesday.Sharath Kamal, double gold medallist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, went on to win 4-2 in the best-of-seven match at the Peking University Gymnasium.

The 26-year-old Sharath Kamal won 6-11, 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7 in 45 minutes and booked a place in the second round, where a victory is likely to see him clash with World No.1 Wang Hao of China in the quarter finals.

The win against Carneros brings the Indian face-to-face with World No. 31 Chen Weixing, a Chinese-born who plays for Austria. Weixing, who got a bye in the first round, has beaten the Indian several times in the past, including once at the China Open in 2006.

Sharath Kamal, who has been playing with Carneros at Spain’s San Sebastian Club for the last two years, admitted: “It’s terrible (playing a club teammate). We train with each other every other day and we live in the same apartment. So it is hard for both of us to fight against each other. I feel sad about his loss and similarly he would feel sad if I lost.”

On his opponent, he said: “We know each other’s game very well and therefore it was more of a mind game.”

Though the two train together, it was the first time they played against each other in a competition.

On what he considered the crucial part of the match, Sharath Kamal said: “The second game. I lost the first game and I didn’t feel well and was a little nervous. I started to play better after the second game.”

Sharath Kamal, who had strained his knee three weeks before the Olympics, played with his knee taped. He added: “Since this was my first match, I was a bit rusty. Also I was unable to gauge the ball, as it seemed to be dipping whenever I was standing back. Maybe it was because this was the first match of the competition for me.”

In the opener, the two were neck and neck at 5-5 before Carneros, using a strong forehand, ran away with a 11-6 win. But into the second game, Sharath Kamal ran up an early 4-0 lead and then was 7-3 up, before the Spaniard made his move. Even at 10-8, the Indian had two game points, but he allowed Carneros to level before winning two clean winners at 12-10.

Again in the third, the Indian had an early lead at 6-2, but Carneros came close at 7-9 before Sharath Kamal wrapped up the game 11-8 to make it 2-1 in the match.

The fourth game saw a close fight with Carneros attacking a lot and breaking the Chennai paddler’s defence to win the last few crucial points. They were 9-9 before he smashed two successive winners for 11-9 and made it 2-2 in the match.

Sharath Kamal again built up an early lead at 9-3 in the fourth game and extended it to 10-4 before winning 11-6. Then in sixth game, the Indian was up 8-4, and despite a fightback from Carneros, he won 11-7 to book his berth in the next round.

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