G Sathiyan was the lone Indian to progress to the preliminary round while it was curtains for both Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra at the ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup in Yokohama on Friday.
Sathiyan, the world No 28 who had reached the semi-finals at the Challenge Plus Oman Open in Muscat recently, accounted for the most experienced player in the tournament, Chuang Chih-Yuan of Chinese Taipei 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 to finish third in Group C. This enabled him to qualify for the playoff on Saturday for one of the two slots in the quarterfinals.
The tournament’s format allows the top two players in each of the first three groups directly making the quarterfinal grade while those who had finished third in those groups and the fourth group (D) topper complete for the remaining two slots.
Sathiyan began badly losing first to Koki Nowa of Japan 7-11, 9-11, 12-10, 8-11 but won the match against No. 8 seed from Taipei 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 before losing the last group match to Lee Sangsu of Korea 7-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-5.
The No 10 seeded Indian will take on Kazakh’s Kirill Gerassimenko on Saturday in the preliminary round. A win for the Indian will put him in an enviable position as he would join the top six in the quarterfinals where he may be facing one of the two top seeds, Fan Zhendong or Ma Long of China.
Earlier, Sharath, ranked 37th, and placed in group B failed lost all three matches as he opened with a loss to second-seeded Ma Long 5-11, 5-11, 5-11, then Taipei’s Yun-Ju Lin 12-10, 6-11, 9-11, 8-11 before finally losing to Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan 6-11, 12-14, 11-9, 11-5, 7-11 to end his unsuccessful campaign.
For the double gold medal winner at the CWG and Asian Games mixed doubles bronze winner Manika Batra, it must have come as a real shock when she failed to win a single match despite having been pitted against the lesser players and in the regional group D.
The Indian, who is ranked No. 56 in the world, lost both her opening matches to players she had never lost before. Manika opened against Iran’s No. 2 player, Ashtari Mahshid who won 10-12, 5-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-6. Then the Indian went down to Singapore’s Ye Lin 7-11, 13-15, 8-11 tamely before overcoming Maha Faramarzi of Qatar 11-3, 11-6, 11-2 to finish third ahead of the bottom-finisher Qatari.