It was a disappointing day at Gondomar, Portugal where both the Indian men’s and women’s table tennis teams are playing the World Team Olympic Qualification tournament. After the news came in about the women’s squad suffering a defeat against Romania, the fifth-seeded Indian men’s contingent also got a severe blow, losing out to world 15th ranked Slovenia, 3-1.
Albeit the spirited performances by Achanta Sharath kamal and Harmeet Desai, it was not enough to guarantee the Indian men’s squad a victory today. The 11th seeded Slovenian team in this tournament emerged to be stronger and better on most occasions and dealt out a crushing defeat to the Indian side who had displayed signs of being in fine form so far in this tournament. This loss is even more heart-breaking especially because it comes at the pre-quarterfinal stages of the tournament where the opportunity of booking their Olympic berth is almost in their hand’s reach.
In the first rubber, the men’s doubles team took the stage with Achanta Sharath Kamal pairing up with Harmeet Desai to set the proceedings in order. The duo was relentless and simply no match for the Slovenian pair of Deni Kozul and Bojan Tokic who trailed behind the Indian pair for most of the match, eventually losing out to them in straight games. Sharath and Desai gave the perfect start to the Indian team with a 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 victory.
However, this victory was to become the lone one as right in the next match Sathiyan Gnanasekaran could not produce that same level of table tennis as his Slovenian opponent, Darko Jorgic. The talented paddler failed to make his mark felt in this men’s singles encounter which slipped out of India’s grasp as Jorgic won 11-9, 12-10, 11-3.
Soon enough, the third rubber followed in a similar lieu with Harmeet Desai not being able to withstand an epic battle at the table. Spanning over five games, Slovenia’s Bojan Tokic gave Desai a really hard time. However, the 26-year-old from Surat played a couple of inspired games and pocketed them too but it was all in vain because Tokic had his plans on having the last laugh. Desai went down fighting to Tokic 11-5, 10-12, 11-6, 5-11, 6-11.
With that, Slovenia was already leading at 2-1 and needed only one more match win to secure victory for the day. The fourth rubber of the day saw experienced paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal taking to the stage against Darko Jorgic. However, even Kamal could not save the match despite grabbing the first get. Soon he lost his momentum and Jorgic called the shots and raced to grant Slovenia a berth in the quarter-finals 10-12, 11-7, 12-10, 11-8.
But all hope is not yet lost for the Indian side as they will have to win in the plate division to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. All losers in the round of 16 will have to take part in the knock-out plate event. Keeping their hopes still alive, the Indian men’s side will look ahead and will face-off against the Czech Republic next, still in pursuit of their Olympic qualification dreams.