Former champ Anthony Amalraj survives scare at table tennis nationals

The 2012 national champion Anthony Amalraj was stretched in the Round of 64 match against Soumyadeep Sarkar of West Bengal.

By Naveen Peter

Back from a COVID-19 bout, former national champion Anthony Amalraj had to dig deep for his opening-round win at the 82nd Senior National Table Tennis Championships on Sunday.

Up against West Bengal’s Soumyadeep Sarkar, the 35-year-old Anthony Amalraj registered a 4-3 win to keep his campaign alive at the Tau Devi Lal Indoor Stadium in Panchkula.

A national champion in 2012, Anthony Amalraj -- who recovered from COVID early last November -- was hesitant to commit into attacks and gave his opponent enough time to measure his returns.

Though the Tamil Nadu player took the opening game 12-10 he was soon made to pay for his cautious approach as Soumyadeep Sarkar showed no mercy to race to a 2-1 lead in the match. 

The ninth seed Anthony Amalraj, however, backed himself and grew into the match with time and was soon leading 3-2. He, however, lacked the killer instinct and allowed Soumyadeep Sarkar a way back, pushing the match into a decider. 

In the seventh game, though Soumyadeep Sarkar started and established an early lead, Anthony Amalraj levelled at 7-7 and was soon serving for the match at 10-9. 

But the Indian international couldn’t close the match in his first attempt and was dragged for a while before winning the tie 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 14-12.

Earlier, 10th seed Jeet Chandra was the only seeded player to bow out of the Round of 64 at the Senior Nationals. Facing the former sub-junior national champion Preyesh Raj Suresh, the Haryana player went down 2-4.

The left-handed Preyesh Raj Suresh was on top of his game as he kept his opponent guessing with some smart service variations and was quick returns that barely allowed the higher-ranked Jeet Chandra any time to work his way out in what was 11-9, 11-6, 8-11, 11-13, 11-6, 11-9 win of the youngster.

Meanwhile, top seed Achanta Sharath Kamal faced no problems to seal his place in the Round of 32 with a comfortable 4-0 win over Abinay Vijay Babu of Tamil Nadu. Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, however, dropped a game in his win over Mizoram’s Jeho Himnakulhpuingheta.