The 37-year-old defeated former world no. 7 Marcos Freitas in the final of the tournament on last Sunday.

One of the torchbearers of Indian Table Tennis, Achanta Sharath Kamal once again came under the limelight as he claimed the Oman Open Title in Muscat on last Sunday. A hard fought victory against Portugal’s Marcos Freitas, a former world no. 7, it also marked a 10-year long international title drought for the 37-year-old.

“Winning on pro tour is fantastic. Actually, I didn’t think about winning the Oman Open when I went into it. But looking at the draw looking and my form, I thought… okay, I should be able to make it to the semifinal at least, probably, even to the final,” Sharath Kamal told to The Hindu following his win.

“In the final, I thought playing (World No. 26, top seed from Portugal) Marcos (Freitas) will be quite difficult because he’s really been in very good shape and doing very well,” he added.

The Chennai native also put some light on the final game against Freitas, which he revealed was a mentally stressful match for him.

“At 3-1 ahead, my head was all over the place because it was a big chance of winning the title. It was really hard to control the emotions.” he said to The Indian Express.

“In the sixth game, I started with a 4-0 lead. Things were fine, then suddenly I went down 6-8. I saved five-game points but managed to convert my only match point. It was a mental roller-coaster ride, but I’m really happy I managed to pull it off,” Sharath Kamal added.

There were a lot of top-level players who didn’t withdraw because of the forthcoming Olympic Games. Though I was the fourth seed, around 16 players were pretty close to me.

“So I think the competition was pretty stiff. I was just lucky to have a draw which was more suitable to me and I did well.”

Sharath Kamal also revealed that the final of the Oman Open final brought out one of the best performance of his long career.

“I played one of my best table tennis in the final. My backhand, I think, was phenomenal. I was surprised how I could hit those backhands so hard, with such good timing. Even Marcos appeared very, very surprised by the way I was hitting the backhands, and he really didn’t know where exactly to play.

“I think throughout the tournament, especially the semifinal and final, I played much better when I was trailing than when I was ahead.

Watch: Oman Open 2020 Final Highlights

A coronavirus affected country, travelling to Oman was one of the hardest challenge for the world no. 38. Speaking about the experience, Sharath Kamal opined, “My family is paranoid. They didn’t want me to go, but I thought that the Olympic qualifiers are coming up, so I need some match practice and this is a good chance to improve my ranking. But with all the tension and stress, it was probably better to stay home.”

“A lot of countries were not allowed to send a team. The maximum I could do was win the tournament since it had been a long time for me not winning an event.”

Following his victory in Muscat, upon returning to India, Sharath Kamal passed all of the medical checks in the Chennai airport, however, is currently in self-quarantine as part of the advisory of the sports ministry.

“The most I can do is go out for early morning runs, around maybe 5 AM, because there won’t be anyone around that I can come in contact with. Then, of course, I will try to take care that I don’t touch things to my mouth,” he answered when speaking about his self imposed quarantine procedures.

The COVID 19 pandemic has forced the authorities to cancel sporting events all around the world. Considering the current scenario, Sharath Kamal quipped, “It’s been huge. Olympic qualifiers are supposed to happen three weeks from now.”

“But then, for the next six weeks, there is no tournament. And we don’t know when the next tournament will be held. In May, there are tournaments in Hong Kong and China, which I doubt if they will be organised at all. So, we really don’t know what is the fate of the tournaments in the next couple of months.”

“And also what will be the qualification process for the Olympic Games because if the qualifying tournaments don’t happen, then what will be the process for qualification to Tokyo? Everything is a question mark,” he concluded.