The Indian men's table tennis team had to be content with a first-ever bronze medal following a 0-3 loss to South Korea in the semi-finals of the 18th Asian Games here on Tuesday.
G. Sathiyan, Achanta Sharath Kamal and Anthony Amalraj went down fighting in their respective matches.
The South Koreans took the lead when Sathiyan lost 11-9, 9-11, 3-11, 3-11 to Lee Sangsu in the opening match. Kamal gave a tough fight to Jeoung Sik before going down 9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7, 8-11 while Amalraj lost 5-11, 7-11, 11-4, 7-11 to Jang Woojin.
With both Sangsu and Jeoung Young Sik, figuring among the top 10 of world ranking, it was a tough ask for the Indians to do what they did against a depleted Japanese squad in the semi-finals.
Yet, Sathiyan began promisingly only to lose his way, unable to counter the speed and a strong backhand of Sangsu to fold in 34 minutes. The South Korean took some time before assessing his opponent's weak points and attacked solidly from game two onwrds.
It reflected on Sathiyan who was in definite discomfort. Yet he managed to come close to Sangsu who levelled the score. However, from game three the tie was going only one way as the Korean was severe to punish on any highball and using the flanks went from strength to strength.
The next game, too, was rather easy for the South Korean and he took just eight minutes, two more than the previous game, to give his 1-0 lead.
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 the South 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 the fighter that he is, brought him back in the third and fourth which Sharath won with utmost ease, as he led more than comfortably in both games. With the decider on, the Korean siwtched 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 as he won 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-8.
Playing thei third singles Jang Woojin, known for his crisp backhand and speed, undid Amalraj as early as in the first game as the Indian was left to fend for himself at 0-2. He made great efforts in the third to take a game off him. However, Woojin was quick to dispose of Amalraj to sew it up 11-5, 11-7, 4-11, 11-7.
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 India played overall. "It was good to go home with a medal. All team members are more than happy to reach the podium," he added.
First Published: IST