The Indian men’s team suffered a 0-3 thrashing from a much superior Singapore and had to settle for the silver medal at the 19th Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, in New Delhi, on Wednesday.
The Indian paddlers displayed flashes of brilliance to generate some excitement among the home supporters at the Thyagaraj stadium, but, in the end, the difference in class between the teams was reflected in the scores.
With the home team trailing 0-2, young paddler Sanil Shetty (ranked 332nd) lost to Singapore's Liang Ma in an excruciatingly close contest that went five sets.
Shetty started tentatively against his 174-ranked opponent, who raced to an 8-1 lead in the first game. The 23-year-old Indian tried hard to make amends but could not prevent Ma from bagging the first set 11-8.
The Mumbai lad was impeccable near the table and his strong back-hand returns matched that of his opponent as he took the game 11-9.
The long rallies in the match provided excitement to the sparsely-filled arena.
The Indians left-handed Shetty went on to clinch the next game 11-8 to lead the contest 2-1.
With India having the upper hand for the first time in the contest, it looked like the match would head to the reverse duel. But the 22-year-old Singaporean had other plans. Ma upped his game and forced Shetty to make errors and took the fourth 11-9 after trailing 0-4.
In the decider too, Shetty was 6-3 up, but squandered the initiative as he crumbled under pressure to hand the Singapore side their third gold medal on the trot in the team event of the Championship.
"I should have finished the match in the fourth game as I was leading 4-0. From there on he (Ma) played better. Also, I committed lot errors in the final game," Shetty said.
Singapore had beaten India in the final of the 2007 and 2009 edition of the Championships as well.
Earlier, Soumyajit Ghosh and Achantha Sharath Kamal lost their respective matches without a fight.
India started with Ghosh (187), who seemed over-aggressive at the start of his match against Jian Zhan. His strategy paid dividends initially and was on the verge of giving the hosts a perfect start with the scoreline reading 10-6.
However, the experienced Singaporean, who is also the highest ranked player at 25th, fought back to snatch the game 13-11.
From then on, it was one-way traffic for Zhan as he completely dominated the tie against an error-prone Ghosh, winning the next two games 11-8, 11-3.
Much was expected from Sharath Kamal, but the 70-ranked Indian meekly surrendered to Hu Li. He proved no match as he went down 4-11, 4-11, 9-11.
In the women's event also, Singapore thrash England 3-0 to bag their maiden gold medal.