Indian paddlers were handed tough draws for their Tokyo 2020 campaigns that will begin with the mixed doubles on Saturday.
Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal, who had qualified for the Olympics in spectacular style by beating the Korean top seeds Sang-Su Lee and Jihee Jeon in the Asian qualifiers, have been drawn to face third seeds Lin Yun-ju vs Cheng I-ching from Chinese Taipei in the round of 16. The Taipei pair are world No 1 as per the ITTF rankings.
Incidentally, should they win that match, the Indians will likely face the same Korean pair (world No 6) they defeated in Doha next up.
By virtue of their seedings, Sharath Kamal (20) and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (26) received first-round byes in men’s singles. Brian Afanador (world No 90) or Lam Siu Hang (world No 95) awaits Sathiyan in the second round while Tiago Apolonia (world No 59) or Olajide Omotayo (world No 94) will face Sharath in round two. However, the Indian stars have been handed massive challenges should they prevail in their first matches. Sathiyan will face Japanese sensation Tomokazu Harimoto (3) while Sharath has the unenviable task of going up against Ma Long (2), the defending singles champion.
In women’s singles, Batra (world No 62) will take on Ho Tin-Tin (world no 94) in the first round while Suthirtha Mukherjee (world No 98) takes on world No 78 Linda Bergstrom.
Mixed doubles round of 16, July 24:
Manika Batra-Sharath Kamal vs Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-ju vs Cheng I-Ching (third seed)
Women’s singles first round, July 24:
Manika Batra vs Ho Tin-Tin
Suthirtha Mukherjee vs Linda Bergström
Men’s singles second round, July 25 / 26:
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran vs Brian Afanador or Lam Siu Hang
Sharath Kamal vs Tiago Apolonia or Olajide Omotayo
Sharath-Batra duo, who won a bronze in 2018 Asian Games, will not have it easy against the Taipei pair, a left-right combination. Before leaving for Tokyo, the duo could practice only for three days in the national camp before Batra returned to her training base in Pune.
Should she win the opening round, Batra will lock horns with Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska, world no 36, in the next round followed by Sofia Polcanova of Austria, who is ranked 17, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. If Suthirtha wins her opening match she will face Portugal’s Yu Fu, ranked 55, in the second round, and much tougher Mima Ito of Japan, world No. 30, in the third.
With PTI inputs
Clarifications: The rankings have been updated as per ITTF’s latest listings.
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