Table tennis Draw: Tough chances for all Indian paddlers at the Tokyo Olympics
Nobody said it would be easy and likewise, Manika Batra, G. Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal and Sutirtha Mukherjee have a tricky draw to encounter.
All eyes will be on table tennis stars Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Sharath Kamal and G. Sathiyan as they will be shouldering the hopes of millions of Indians who they would be representing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The table tennis draw for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 is just out, and over here, we will take a look at the opponents that the Indian contingent will be facing in the initial rounds. Scheduled to participate in 3 categories at the Olympics this time - Indian paddlers will be seen in action in the much-awaited Mixed Doubles, Mens's Singles and Women's Singles events at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
The pair of Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal have been handed a tough draw in the Mixed Doubles category which was touted to be the easiest medal hope for the Indians in table tennis. The reason behind it is that this category could well have guaranteed India a medal as only 16 participating teams were participating, ensuring that India would have to win just three matches to win a medal. Further, the Mixed Doubles duo of Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal are a tested pair, having brought India a bronze in the 2018 Asian Games. However, they will be facing Chinese Taipei's Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching, who are seeded third in the world and won't be easy opponents to get past, at all.
Hailing from West Bengal, Sutirtha Mukherjee has been preparing for this day for a long time since she has already missed the opportunity to represent the country once in 2016 Rio Olympics. She intended to hold on to her belief when it seemed that coronavirus would be responsible for cancelling the Olympics. After her excellent show in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where she created history by winning gold as part of the team event category, she went on to win Senior National TT Championships in 2019, followed by stunning the likes of Petrissa Solja (Germany) and Cheng I-Ching (Chinese Taipei) in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT). Now she has her eyes set on the Tokyo Olympics.
- She will be facing Linda Bergström from Sweden, ranked 70, while Sutirtha is ranked 100 in the first round of the Women's Singles.
- If she manages to outmanoeuvre her opponent, she will face Portugal's Yu Fu, ranked 55 in the next round.
- In the third round, if she advances, she will face the host nation's Mima, ranked No. 3 globally.
Manika Batra too, has her plans well chalked out. Batra became a household name in India after her superb showing in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where she won a historic gold medal in the women's singles category and added three more medals to her kitty, a silver in women's doubles and a bronze medal in mixed doubles and another gold in the women's team event. The entire country will be hoping for a good show from both of them.
- This Olympic season, she will be facing Britain's Tin Ho Ho in the first round in Women's Singles. Manika (61) is ranked way above the British paddler (99) in World Rankings and will be expected to clear the first round quickly.
- Then in the second, she will be facing Margaryta Pesotska of Ukraine, whose ranking is 36. However, this will be a challenge; but, Batra has defeated opponents with a better rank than herself before and will be backing herself to do so again.
- If she clears the second round, she will be facing Sofia Polkanova of Austria, ranked at 17. Manika is expected to be tested in this match; however, she will have the confidence to defeat her opponent after the success she has had in the last few years.
G. Sathiyan has prepared well for the Tokyo Olympics; after the forced break due to corona, he went to the Japanese T-league team Okayama Rivets to participate in the tournament. He is the first Indian paddler to have featured in such a tournament, and to him, it was not only a chance to learn more about the game but was a pre-Olympic preparation.
- He gets a bye in the first round, but he will have to face either Puerto Rico's Brian Afanador or Hong Kong's Lam Siu Hang in the second round.
- However, if the World No. 38 qualifies, the real challenge will ensue in the third round against Japanese teen-sensation Tomokazu Harimoto, ranked 4 in the world.
Sharath Kamal, the most veteran paddler in the mix, will be looking to make a statement in the Men's Singles category and will be eager to chop his way to the medal matches.
- After a bye in the first round like Sathiyan, he will be facing Portugal's Tiago Apolónia or Nigeria's Olajide Omotayo in the second. While Kamal is ranked 32 globally, Tiago and Omotayo are ranked 59 and 94, respectively.
- Like Sathiyan, Kamal has a tough draw to face if he advances into the third round. He will be facing the formidable Chinese legend and reigning Olympic champion, Ma Long, who is ranked 3 in the world.