Jakarta: The Indian table tennis men’s team settled for a historic bronze medal after going down 0-3 to South Korea in a lop-sided semifinal at the 18th Asian Games here today. The team comprising G Sathiyan, Achanta Sharath Kamal and A Amalraj couldn’t put up a fight against the mighty Koreans, who set up a summit clash against defending champions China in a repeat of 2014 edition.
G Sathiyan, ranked 39, suffered a 11-9 9-11 3-11 3-11 loss to Lee Sangsu in the opening game as India lagged 0-1. The experienced Sharath Kamal, word No 33, was then entrusted with the responsibility to bring India back in the game, but he went down 9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7, 8-11 after a valiant fight to Young Sik Jeoung in the second match, as South Korea led the tie 2-0.
In the deciding third game, Amalraj was beaten 5-11 7-11 11-4 7-11 by 22-year-old Woojin Jang as South Korea clinched the tie 3-0.
Sharath opened up with a good lead only to surrender midway as he led 7-4 and then let Jeoung level at 9-9 before allowing two easy points on Korean’s service. In the second, too, the Indian led briefly but the Korean went 8-4 up only to lose the advantage when Sharath made it 9-9. Yet again, Sharath failed to claim the two crucial points with serve on. But Sharath did not give up and won the third and fourth games with utmost ease, as he led more than comfortably in both.
With the decider on, the Korean switched himself on to a cruise mode and beat Sharath with sheer speed. Sharath did have his chance but he missed the return when he could have made it 7-8 to give a twist to the tale. But a few unforced errors made things easy for Jeoung.
A disappointed Sharath agreed that he missed the chance of levelling the score. “I should have taken the tie, but few mistakes at crucial junctures upset me really. Maybe, it (a win in the tie) would have give us a semblance of chance,” he said at the end of the match.
He, however, was happy with the way In dia played overall. “It was good to go home with a medal. All team members are more than happy to reach the podium,” he added. India did not have a single medal in the sport which was introduced in the Games program in 1958. The likes of China (61 gold), Japan (20) and South Korea (10) dominated the medals tally for a long time.