New Delhi: Indian paddlers could not match the speed of their Singapore rivals and were blanked 0-3 in the men’s team final at the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships here Wednesday.
Sanil Shetty taking two games off higher-ranked Ma Liang in the third singles was all India could manage against their sharper opponents.
In the words of India’s top player Sharath Kamal, the loss to Singapore was worse than their 1-3 defeat against the same team in the tournament’s last edition in 2009.
The silver in the men’s team championship came a day after the Indian women settled for the bronze. The mighty Singapore women`s team blanked England earlier Wednesday to complete a clean sweep of the team titles for the third successive time in the biennial championships.
Soumyajit Ghosh, India’s star in the semi-final against England, tried his best against World No.26 Zhan Jian before going down 11-13, 8-11, 4-11.
Egged on by a sparse gathering at the Thyagaraj Stadium, the 189th-ranked India started well and raced to a 10-6 lead, before the Singapore No.1 fought back to go one up. Ghosh’s challenge fizzled out thereafter as Zhan closed out the match.
Hopes were high from Sharath in the second singles as he had beaten Li Hu in their last meeting at the 2011 Swedish Open. But to his surprise, the World No.56 was an improved player now.
Sharath, ranked 69, failed to keep pace with Li to easily lose the first game. He showed fight in the third and was leading 6-4 after winning a spectacular rally from the back. The gritty Singaporean, however, recovered to cut the deficit and went on to win the contest 11-4, 11-4, 11-8. India were staring at a whitewash.
The drubbing was almost avoided by Sanil Shetty in the crucial third rubber. World No.329 Shetty punched above his weight to push No.180 Ma Liang but ultimately went down 8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11.
The stylish left-hander produced heavy spin from his forehand to trouble Ma but committed too many unforced errors. Shetty was 7-4 up in the decider and looked set for a memorable victory. But Ma staged a remarkable fight back to take the next seven points for a Singapore sweep of the team events.
Rating India’s performance against a superior side, coach Kamlesh Mehta said: “Singapore have all Chinese players. It is like a China B team. They were much quicker around the table than us. They were able to dictate pace in all matches. All our boys started well but could not keep up with their opponents` speed.”