by Simon Daish
The previous success came at the 2010 ITTF World Tour Egypt Open in Cairo when Sharath Kamal Achanta beat Li Ching of Hong Kong China to become the first Indian player to win an ITTF World Tour title, or Pro Tour as it was known in those days.
Ten years on from that historic occasion Achanta found himself seeded fourth for the men’s singles race at the 2020 Oman Open and outperformed expectations.
Starting with a straight games win over fellow countryman Manush Ultapbhai Shah, Achanta went on to account for Belarus’ Aliaksandr Khanin and Finland’s Benedek Olah before edging a seven game contest against Russia’s Kirill Skachkov to reach the final (11-13, 11-13, 13-11, 11-9, 13-11, 8-11, 11-7).
The player awaiting Achanta at the final hurdle was none other than Portugal’s Marcos Freitas. It was their first head-to-head meeting at international level and what an exciting watch it proved!
Positioned 12 places higher on the March world rankings, Freitas entered the tie as favourite and his display in game one went on to further back up that statement, flying out of the blocks to establish an early lead.
Trailing 3-7 in game two Achanta’s situation wasn’t looking pretty but a fine recovery saw him pick up eight of the next nine points to take the game. Before long Achanta had successfully turned the match on its head with a successful outing in game three and then extended his advantage to 3-1.
Up against the ropes Freitas managed to stay in the match with a better showing in game five and then had a total of five game point opportunities in game six. However, the Portuguese competitor couldn’t convert as Achanta completed a sensational 4-2 win to lift the trophy.
A fine performance from Sharath Kamal Achanta who has shown in Muscat that he still has plenty to give in the elite level game. Heralded as an all-time great in his home country Achanta has once again earned his time in the spotlight, landing India its first ITTF Challenge Series men’s singles gold since 2017!