By Ijaz Ahmad Khan
ASHGABAT (Turkmenistan), Sept 27 (APP): The India Tennis squash shown
a remarkable performance in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games Tennis event which successfully ended with a parade of fine champions, headed by the Singles gold medalists Sumit Nagal (IND) and Beatrice Gumulya (INA), being crowned at a tournament in which one of the world’s great sports was properly embraced by Turkmenistan for the first time.
India and Thailand squads predictably topped the medals table, sharing
four of the gold medals, what was less expected was the sight of two Indonesians battling for the remaining one in a titanic Women’s Singles final in which Aldila Sutjiadi, astoundingly, saved 10 match points before she was finally ground down in three sets by her room-mate Gumulya.
There were packed to capacity spectators at the Indoor Tennis Centre to
witness a series of compelling matches on four hard courts and, over the 11 days of competition, the Ashgabat public grew ever more noisily enthusiastic about what effectively was an alien sport to them.
By the time Nagal outplayed his Indian team-mate and Athletes Village
room-mate Vijay Natarajan (IND) in a fitting finale to the tournament in
the 4,000-seater Main Court, they were learning to love the gladiatorial combat, excitedly caught up in the drama of five dramatic finals.
How extraordinary, too, that another pair rooming together in the
Village should meet in the climax to the Men’s Singles final, with 20 year-old Nagal looking like a new star in the making. The Indians had prepared thoroughly at a four-day pre-Ashgabat 2017 camp back home and it showed.
“We had an exceptional team spirit,” said their Doubles star Jagadeesan,
who teamed up with his old friend, fellow 30-year-old Natarajan for a consummate men’s Doubles victory. The Indians, though, were halted in the other Doubles competitions by a typically combative Thailand team, who followed up their success at the recent Southeast Asian Games with two terrific and unlikely wins.
Tamachan Momkoonthod (THA) and Varunya Wongteanchai (THA) produced the
comeback of the tournament, battling back from 5-2 down in the final set
and saving three Championship points before defeating the Indian No.1 seeds Prarthana Thombare and Ankita Raina.
Thombare and Jagadeesan may have been the two top-ranked players at
Ashgabat 2017 but, in the final, their Mixed Doubles ‘dream team’ could still not cope with Nuttanon Kadchapanan, a coach and merely a part-time player these days, who was quite inspired alongside his excellent partner Nicha Lertpitaksinchai.
Lovely stories abounded, from the comeback of former top 100 player
Farrukh Dustov (UZB), who returned from a career-threatening wrist injury
to collect two bronze medals, to the inspiring odysseys of Vanuatu’s hopefuls Leniker Thomas, a profoundly deaf player, and his 14-year-old schoolboy team-mate Clement Mainguy, one of the many names for the future
to look out for.