The Indian table tennis contingent's dream run at the Asian Games got better today when the mixed doubles pairing of A Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra exceeded its own expectations to win a historic bronze.
It was only yesterday that the Kamal-led men's team had secured a bronze, ending India's 60-year-wait for a maiden medal at the Asian Games.
Today, Kamal and Batra played four matches in a day and only the opener against Malaysia was comfortable.
In the lead-up to the event, Kamal had slammed the scheduling of the competition.
In the semifinals, Kamal and Batra made life tough for China's Yingsha Sun and Wang Sun before going down 9-11, 5-11, 13-11, 4-11, 8-11. The semifinal was a best of seven games contest while the earlier rounds were played in the usual best of five format.
Their pre-quarterfinal was against the strong a South Korean pairing of Lee Sangsu and Jeon Jihee but the Indians battled past them 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 10-12, 11-4.
Next up for Kamal and Batra was the North Korean challenge posed by Cha Hyo Sim and An Ji Song. This was for a place in the semifinals and a guaranteed medal at the Games.
Like the round of 16 match, the quarterfinal too went down to the wire with the Indians pulling off a 11-4, 10-12, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8 victory.
The combination of Kamal's power and Batra's deceptive play from the pimpled rubber proved too hot to handle for the Koreans.
"In mixed doubles, the role of the female player is very important. More often than not, it actually decides who is going to win the match," Kamal told PTI.
"It has been an unbelievable campaign so far. Not even in my wildest dreams I thought of winning a medal at the Asian Games. Now I have got too. I am still pinching myself," added Kamal, who will also compete in the men's doubles and singles competiton.
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