Table Tennis: Achanta Sharath Kamal qualifies for Tokyo Olympics
Sharath's win against Rameez Muhammad has ensured a smooth passage to the Olympics for him on the basis of his higher World Ranking.
India's highest ranked table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, after his 4-0 (11-4, 11-1, 11-5, 11-4) straight-games win against Pakistan's Rameez Muhammad in the Asian Olympic Qualification tournament being held at Doha, earlier today.
"Very happy to have qualified for my 4th Olympic Games, in men's singles. Focused now on the mixed doubles qualification which is still underway here in Doha," Sharath tweeted after his qualification.
Even though Sharath lost a hard-fought first match 3-4 against fellow Indian Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, his win against the Pakistani Rameez has made sure that he has a safe passage to Tokyo due to his higher World Ranking.
This would be the fourth straight Olympic appearance for Sharath who has been competing at the quadrennial event since the 2004 Athens Games.
"It was a good match against Sathiyan but I made some errors and he capitalised on them to win the match. I was a bit nervous before playing against Rameez as I had never faced him before. But after the first few games I was confident that my strategy was working and I executed it well to maintain control," the World No. 32 Sharath said from Doha after qualifying.
38-year-old Sharath had been in impressive form before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world. With no matches happening, Sharath's preparation for Tokyo was badly impacted. However, the Indian refused to give up and returned to the table after a break of almost a year at the recently concluded WTT Contender Doha and a last-16 finish in the two events as well as defeating World No 16 Patrick Franziska gave him enough confidence ahead of the Asian Qualifiers.
"A lot of things have happened since March 2020. I became the champion in Oman and was in good touch, was preparing to play the qualification match in Thailand in just two weeks and suddenly everything came to a standstill. I have achieved the best rankings of my career and it's a huge sigh of relief especially the way this year has been. Though this will be my fourth Olympics, it will be my best Olympic Games," he added.
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, on the other hand, will qualify for Tokyo if he beats Rameez Muhammad in his upcoming match on the basis of topping the South Asian pool at the Asian Olympic Qualification.
Sathiyan will take on Rameez tonight at around 10 pm IST. You can follow our live blog here.