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Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan best Indian prospects to qualify for Tokyo Olympics, feels Soumyadeep Roy

G Sathiyan (L) and Sharath Kamal are favourites to book a ticket to Tokyo Olympics from Asian Qualifiers
G Sathiyan (L) and Sharath Kamal are favourites to book a ticket to Tokyo Olympics from Asian Qualifiers
Kaushiik Paul

Indian national table tennis coach Soumyadeep Roy is confident that the paddlers stand a good chance of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics despite dismal performances in the WTT Contender series in Doha.

The likes of Achanta Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan, Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee will be in action in the World qualifiers starting on March 14 followed by the Asian event which starts on March 18.

“It all depends on how we perform in the Worlds. It a tough tournament but chances are there,” Roy told Sportskeeda exclusively from Doha. “The format of the World qualifiers is a bit different. It’s a lengthy and tough process and we have to win 3-4 top-level matches to qualify from the Worlds.”

Nine to qualify for Tokyo Olympics from World Qualifiers

As many as nine qualification spots are up for grabs – four for men and five for women – in the World qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics. As of Thursday, a total of 78 and 63 entries have been received for the men’s and women’s singles categories respectively.

In the men’s event, three will qualify in the first stage. The paddlers will be divided in three knockout rounds with the winners directly qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

The losing finalists and the semi-finalists from each of those three rounds will then be drawn up in a single knockout round with the winner joining the flight to Tokyo.

Similarly, in the women’s event, the entries will be divided into four knockout rounds where the winners qualify directly for the Tokyo Olympics in stage one. The losing finalists will then play in a single knockout round at stage two, with the winner taking the honors of making it to the Tokyo Olympics.

How the Indians fared in the WTT tournaments?

While Sathiyan lost to Nigerian Aruna Quadri in the WTT Contender main draw first round, the Indian made a winning start in the WTT Star Contender winning against French top-ranked Emmanuel Lebesson. He lost in the next round against Japanese teen sensation Tomokazu Harimoto.

Kamal reached pre-quarters in both tournaments that included fighting for a 3-2 victory against German world No. 16 Patrick Franziska in the WTT Star Contender.

Sharath Kamal stunned World No.16 Patrick Franziska in the WTT Star Contender
Sharath Kamal stunned World No.16 Patrick Franziska in the WTT Star Contender

Batra too didn’t have a great start in Doha, faltering in the WTT Contender final qualifying round. She made it to the WTT Star Contender round of 32 where she bowed down in front of Japanese Mima Ito. Sutirtha couldn’t cross the qualifying stages ineither ofh the WTT events.

Soumyadeep Roy credits TT Nationals for preparation

Roy, a former national champion and an Arjuna awardee, believes the way the paddlers are performing at this moment after such a long gap is commendable and credited the table tennis Nationals that happened in February.

“Overall, I think the performance has been very good, the paddlers are in very good form, they are confident. The Nationals have been a very good preparation for us helping us getting in the groove after been out of action for so long (due to COVID-19 pandemic),” he stated.
“I think there is nothing that needs to be changed at this moment. The level at which we are playing right now, I think everyone has a good chance of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics,” said Roy.

He also reiterated the fact Kamal and Sathiyan are favorites to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics from the Asian Qualifiers.

“In the men’s Asian qualifiers, I would say Sharath and Sathiyan are the favourites to qualify for Tokyo Olympics. In the women’s, we have Manika and Sutirtha. It all depends on how they perform in the World qualifiers. If one among Manika and Sutirtha qualifies in the Worlds, then the other could qualify from the South Asian region for the Tokyo Olympics,” stated Roy.
“As far as the Asian qualification is concerned, in the South Asian quota both Sharath and Sathiyan are the highest ranked and India are the favourites as there is one competitor in Pakistan. So if one qualifies from the South Asian quota the other qualifies as the highest-ranked Asian.”

Edited by Rohit Mishra

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