Star Indian paddlers G Sathiyan, Achanta Sharath Kamal and Sutirtha Mukherjee qualified for the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday in Doha at the Asian Qualifiers. This will be Sathiyan and Mukherjee's maiden Olympics, while Kamal will be flying to his fourth Summer Games.
Sathiyan won both his men's singles games topping the South Asian group, while Mukherjee defeated compatriot Manika Batra 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 4-11, 11-5, 11-4 in the only women's singles group encounter.
Sharath Kamal, despite losing 9-11, 13-15, 11-5, 11-7, 12-10, 9-11, 8-11 to Sathiyan in the opening game qualified after beating Pakistan's Rameez Muhammad in the next.
The world No.32 won 11-4, 11-1, 11-5, 11-4 in less than 23 minutes and made sure he booked his fourth Olympic ticket owing to his higher world ranking.
Unlike the game against Sharath Kamal, Muhammed provided stiff resistance to Sathiyan in the final group game. Touted as favorite to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, Sathiyan didn't disappoint, winning 11-5, 11-8, 11-9, 11-2 in straight games to cap a brilliant day for Indian table tennis.
Leading 1-0, Sathiyan was taken on the backfoot on several occasions in the second and third games by the World No. 695, but it was the 28-year-old Indian who kept his calm and utilized his past experience to prevail over his opponent.
Sutirtha Mukherjee does the star turn
Sutirtha Mukherjee was a totally different person on Thursday. The Bengal girl, who put on a good showing in the WTT Contender series qualifiers before losing out, was in attacking mood from the onset.
Although she lost the first game, Mukherjee came back stronger in the second. At 4-4, Mukherjee won seven consecutive points to make it 1-all.
Batra reduced the deficit by winning the third, but it was World No.95 Mukherjee's day as she completely outfoxed her senior opponent to win the next three games and book her maiden ticket to the Olympics.
G Sathiyan does a double over Sharath Kamal in 2021
Earlier, Sathiyan did a repeat of the National finals (held in February 2021) to get the better of compatriot Sharath Kamal in what turned out to be an absolute cracker of a contest.
The 28-year-old Sathiyan, who bowed out in the World qualifiers first round, dominated from the start, winning the first two games closely. Both Indians fought toe-to-toe with none leaving an inch to the other.
Leading 2-0 in the match, Sathiyan made his intentions clear. But Sharath Kamal is no walkover. The 38-year-old, who still strives to pocket that coveted Olympic medal, roared back into the match, winning the next three games.
Such was the dominance from the nine-time national champion, Sharath Kamal led Sathiyan 8-3 at one point in the third game. Although the youngest of the lot provided a bit of resistance in the fourth and fifth games, it was Kamal who prevailed to make it 3-2.
The momentum shifted in Sathiyan's favor in the sixth tie. Leading 6-2, Kamal completely lost his rhythm, allowing the opponent to win seven consecutive points to turn the table and take the match into a decider. Kamal tried hard to win the final game, but it was Sathiyan who had the last laugh.
Sharath Kamal-Manika Batra ease to semis
In the mixed doubles, the Indian pair of Kamal and Batra made a bright start winning 11-6, 11-6, 11-2, 11-3 against the Mohammed Abdulwahhab and Maha Faramarzi of Qatar in the quarterfinals. The Kamal-Batra duo will next play Pang Yew En Koen and Lin Ye of Singapore in the semifinals on March 19.