Paddler Sharath Kamal wins title, but did he make a mistake travelling?

Updated: Mar 17, 2020, 10:49 IST | PTI | New Delhi

Veteran Indian paddler, who won Oman Open title recently, admits fear over playing in Muscat amid COVID-19 pandemic; quarantines himself on return

India's TT star Sharath Kamal
India's TT star Sharath Kamal

India's most decorated table tennis player Sharath Kamal won his first international title in 10 years on Sunday, but midway into the competition, the paddler was forced to wonder if he made the mistake of his life by travelling to Oman amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the news of sporting events getting suspended or postponed around the world started trickling in, Sharath was in Muscat for the ITTF Challenge Plus event. The Polish Open happening around the same time was suspended and the world body announced suspension of all activities until the end of April. In these extraordinary times, confusion and chaos in the minds of the players was bound to follow. Sharath was in Muscat with other Indian players including singles number three Harmeet Desai.

"When I heard about the Polish Open being suspended, I thought I made a big, big mistake by coming here," said Sharath, who was relieved to be back to his wife and kids in Chennai in the wee hours of Monday. As a precautionary measure, he has decided to self-quarantine himself at home though the screening at the Chennai Airport showed his body temperature was normal. "In times like these, you obviously think about your family and they are worried about you. But when it was confirmed that the tournament would go on, I had to focus on the job," said the World No. 38, who beat Portugal's Marcos Freitas in the final, an opponent ranked 12 places higher than him.

Sharath was pushed to the limit in the semi-finals also before pipping Russia's Kirill Skachkov in a seven-game contest. "This tournament was my build up to the Olympics qualifiers but now that everything is suspended, I don't know how to feel. I won a tournament after a long time, my game is coming along nicely but there are no tournaments at least for the next one and a half months," he said. "Having said that, it is satisfying to come home with a title. Both final and semifinal was tough. Whenever I train with Freitas, I am losing most of the points but in the match, I was able to outguess him," he added.

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