By Neha Aggarwal
If there is one player who is more eager to play in front of Germans apart from the German national team itself at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships, is India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta. The current world no.53 is not only the poster boy of Indian table tennis but also enjoys the same status when he plays for the club Borussia Düsseldorf in Germany.
Kamal, the superstar in Germany
“In the 2014 Men’s World Cup in Düsseldorf, I was playing against Dimitrij Ovtcharov and I was surprised by the support from Germans. There I was in Germany, playing against a German, but the fans were cheering for me!! That was very very special,” says Kamal who has spent the last six years living and training in Düsseldorf and thus consider the city as “home”.
Sharath has been playing for the club Borussia Düsseldorf since the last five years, the 2016-17 season is his sixth year. In these years, the German fans have developed a special love for the Indian. ” The fans love me there for who I am. They love my playing style, I give a lot of energy which they simply enjoy. I won many important matches, and I always make the game fun to watch by expressing my emotions whole heartedly, unlike the Europeans,” he explained the reasons of the special stardom.
“I think If I m up against any German at the upcoming World Championships, the fans will still support me. They love me because they easily connect with me. I have been away since the Rio Olympics, and just like I am eager to play in front of them, I am sure they are also excited to see me play again in Düsseldorf.”- Sharath Kamal.
Pre Düsseldorf versus Post Düsseldorf Kamal
Sharath explained the proliferation in his knowledge of the game that came only after his move to Borussia Düsseldorf.
“Until I came here, I was winning because of my natural talent and hard work. I had limited knowledge of the game which also reflected in my playing style.”- Sharath Kamal Achanta.
But after moving to Düsseldorf, Sharath gained immense knowledge of the game and thus evolved as a player. Pre Düsseldorf, he lacked a powerful backhand attack, which is a SOLID one post his learnings in Düsseldorf. He is much more matured, and his asset is his consistency which has helped him win matches for both Borussia Düsseldorf and India.
“I understood the what, why and how of table tennis. The learnt the science behind the game. My personal coach Linus, club’s coach Danny Heister and our physical trainer together complemented each other in their teachings. I would see the 13-year old Germans beautifully implementing what my coaches said and that was a big learning in itself,” he explained.
The center is a one stop shop for everything a player needs. Sharath also says how he learnt from the best of the best players training there.
“When I first went there, I saw Jorgen Persson and got a chance to interact with him beyond the closed boundaries of the table tennis arena. I was able to learn the intricacies of the sport from such legends and their secret to success.”- Sharath Kamal Achanta.
“Before I moved to Düsseldorf, I reached no.39 in the world but soon I went down to 91. But after my training in Düsseldorf, I was able to improve and earn my highest ranking ever of no.32 in May 2015. Since then I have been consistent, which has also been my biggest assets. Additionally, despite aging, I am able to keep with the competition, and adapt to the new generation game and the players,” he explained.
“At the 2014 Men’s World Cup in Düsseldorf, my parents, wife and daughter were all present. I did exceptionally well in that tournament. Especially against Dima, I lost 10-12 in the deciding game. I was so close to beating him. The German fans were cheering for me. Doing that in front of my parents, was very special. I played such good table tennis in front of my mother after nine long years and this is certainly one of my most memorable moments of my stay in Düsseldorf,” said the very emotional Kamal with a big bright smile.
Mission World Championships
Kamal is headed to Düsseldorf on 2nd May to join his club Borussia for the Champions League match on 7th and 14th May. After that he will be joined with the rest of the Indian team to have a training camp with the German national team ahead of the much awaited Liebherr 2017 World Championships.
Kamal has been in good shape since his return from a hamstring injury he suffered at the 2015 World Championships in Suzhou. With an additional support from his German fans, good three week preparation before the championship and a bundle of confidence, Sharath Kamal is one of those players who will be looking out to shatter the dreams of the top Chinese and European players!