World Table Tennis Championships 2019: Indian players set to make a mark
The all-important event in the annual calendar of table tennis has come knocking with the World Table Tennis Championships being held in Budapest this year. The qualification rounds have already begun from the 21st of April and the tournament will be concluded on the 28th of this month.
India has seen a steady rise in the success ladder ever since the brilliant results in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games last year. Although the journey was bittersweet in the World Championships last year for the Indian paddlers, they seem to be trying to amend their mistakes of the past and slice their way into a better and promising future. In 2018, while the men's group had finished 13th, an all-time highest, the women's team had ranked poorly at 17th. This year, a lot is riding on the shoulders of the squad settling in Budapest.
The men's side of the team will bank heavily on the experience and panache of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Sharath Kamal to lead them to medals. Sathiyan, who is ranked 28 currently, has been in top-notch form and has already booked his berth in the main draw and won't have to play the qualifiers. There is also A. Amalraj who is going to play the Championships after 2013 and is hoping to make a comeback statement whilst the new paddler on the block, Manav Thakkar will use the platform of the World Championships as a learning space.
The assured medal chances rest with Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra. The hopes are sky-high from the trio. Aside from victories in the singles, Batra and Kamal are expected to make a mark in the Mixed Doubles too. All three of these ace paddlers being in unflinching form have been granted direct entry into the main draw while the rest of the squad will have to overcome the challenges of the qualifying rounds.
So far, the journey has been pleasant for them. Sutirtha Mukherjee overcame the hurdle of the two-round qualifiers as she defeated Celia Baah Danso of Ghana and then Rachel Moret of Switzerland in straight games. Madhurika Patkar also had it easy as she saw off Latvia's Sabina Musajeva and then Trinidad and Tobago's Catherine Spicer. Another newcomer on the block, Archana Kamath overcame the challenge of Montenegro's Petric Ivona in her first round match and will be facing Slovakia's Eva Odorova in the final round match of the qualifier stage.
A. Amalraj did not have to stress much as he got a walkover from his opponent Kodjo Boccovi from Togo and will have to play Guatemala's Allan Gutierrez. Manav Thakkar defeated Poland's Patryk Chojnowski and is up against America's Nicholas Tio in the next and final match of the qualifying round. So far there have been no major upsets in the tournament and it has begun on the right foot.
The Soumyadeep Roy and Arup Basak-coached Indian brigade have got off to a pleasant start so far in the tournament. The main draw action will begin from the 23rd of April and conclude on 28th. We'll have to wait and watch to see if our Indian paddlers can rustle up some magic in Budapest and bring back laurels for the nation.