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Tokyo Olympics: I definitely had Ma Long under pressure, says Sharath Kamal | Tokyo Olympics News – Times of India

July 28, 2021

A 39-year-old Sharath Kamal hasn’t ruled out a return to Olympics in 2024. But even if he doesn’t, the Indian great will remember his Olympics swansong as one of his best-ever performances. It wasn’t enough to stop the legendary Ma Long in the third round at Tokyo, but that takes nothing away from the brilliant fight that the Chennai paddler put up, especially in the first three games.
Tied 1-1 and the third game going into tie-breaker, Ma Long was feeling the pressure so much that he chose to take a time-out with a game-point in his kitty. Even the Chinese master knew if he did not win that game, things could go really tricky against an inspired Sharath who was going all guns blazing right from the word go.
The one-minute break actually proved crucial as the Chinese won the next point to win the game and that in a way, took the match away from Sharath. The Indian, though, still tried keeping ‘The Dragon’ at bay, but Ma Long was just too good, winning the next two games to wrap it up 11-8, 8-11, 13-11, 11-4, 11-4.
“I definitely had him under pressure in the first three games. It was just a matter of closing out the third game. Had I done that — who knows — things could have been different. But once I lost that (game), the momentum quickly shifted to his side and it didn’t take much time for him to wrap things up,” Sharath told TOI after the contest. The intense battle between the two players soon turned a little one-sided as Long opened a 6-0 lead in the fourth game but the Indian didn’t throw in the towel. Sharath did play a few outstanding shots even in the fifth game, but Long brought all his class and composure to the table to ward off the threat.
No wonder Sharath felt that this was one of his best performances in his two-decade long career. “I gave it my all in this encounter and in the tournament. Yes, the results didn’t go in my favour but I am happy. This has to be my best-ever Olympics performance,” said Sharath who was featuring in his fourth Games.
The buzz is that this was Sharath’s last match at the Olympics, but there’s a steely determination about the India No. 1’s mindset that suggests that he may well be up for the scrap in the days to come. “I am at my fittest best at the moment and have hit good form…It is all about staying motivated and having specific targets. My next goal will be to perform well at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2022,” said Sharath, who will next be in action at the Asian championships in Doha in September.
Is the 2024 Olympics a realistic possibility, given the fact that he will be 42? “I don’t know…But yes, it is a nice goal to have. I am getting a lot of messages asking me to continue playing. There will be a lot of factors — form, fitness — and at this point I am not looking too far ahead,” said Sharath.

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