Table tennis is a popular sport in India but Indians still haven't had their big break at an event like the Olympics. India have performed decently well at the Commonwealth Games, but that is as far as it gets.
Sadly, India haven't even faired well at the Asian Games. From that standpoint, the Olympics seem like a distant dream. But to be fair, it is not impossible. India have been part of eight Olympic individual events but they have failed to produce any worthy results.
Unfortunately, the Indian team crashes out in the initial stages of the Olympics.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, India achieved something they had never before. They topped the table by securing 8 medals out of which 4 were brought home by Manika Batra. She became on overnight sensation after defeating three-time Olympian Feng Tianwei.
Just a while after this amazing victory, India won their first medal at the Asian Games. The men's and mixed doubles team comprising Manika and Achanta Sharath Kamal secured the bronze medal.
This excellent display have given India hopes of a creditable performance at the Olympics.
This hope started becoming shaky in 2019. Manika wasn't able to live up to the standard of play she had set in 2018.
Also check out: Tokyo Olympics 2020 Schedule
What are India's chances to claim a spot at the 2020 Olympics?
In the recent Olympics qualifying team events, both the Indian men and women failed to perform. To qualify, it is necessary to reach the pre-quarterfinal stage.
The men's team were seeded 5th but unexpectedly lost to the 11th seeds.
Both G Sathiyan and Sharath, India's big hopes, lost to the same player i.e world no 40 Darko Jorkic.
The women's team did put up a good fight, but it wasn't good enough. Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee lost the opening doubles. Manika Batra won her match and levelled the tie. She beat the world no 19. But after this win, the Romanians dominated the Indians. Romania's Elizabeta Samara crushed India's Ayhika 10-12,11-5,2-11, 7-11.
Next up was Sutirtha. She played amazingly, so much so that some would say it has been her best win to date. She beat her opponent Szocs 8-11, 11-7,11-9,3-11,4-11. She levelled the tie at 2-2 all. The ball was in Manika's court as she had to play the last tie. Sadly, she let her team down as she lost to Daniela Monteiro whose rank was way below Manika's.
This loss severely hampered the Indian team's chance of qualifying.
Even into 2020 ITTF World Team qualification tournament that was held in Portugal, the Indians didn't perform well. Sathiyan failed to win his singles. The men's team lost to the lowly-ranked Czech team.
The women's team didn't come out victorious as they lost to the French Team. Manika failed to lead her team to victory.
Even though India's chances are low as of today, there is still a small window of hope left . This April at the Thailand qualifications, the Indian's will have one last shot in the singles and mixed doubles events.
Every country gets 2 entries in singles. This means that Achanta Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran have to step up their game and put the pedal to the metal.
One of the reasons that table tennis in India has been so erratic is because India didn't have a full-time coach. With Massimo Constantini leaving, the players seem to be on their own
Fortunately, a new foreign coach has been appointed for the Indians which may give them a better chance at qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.Published 16 Feb 2020, 21:12 IST