Manika Batra and Harmeet Desai started the 2021 season on a winning note as they earned straight-set victories in their respective qualifying round two matches at the World Table Tennis Contender in Doha on Monday.

Indian paddlers are making a comeback to the international circuit after a break and participating in the first international tournament of the calendar year.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Batra registered a 12-10, 14-12, 11-8 victory against her Spanish opponent Sofia-Xuan Zhang in the women’s singles while world No 73 Desai notched up an easy 11-5, 12-10, 11-6 win against compatriot Anthony Amalraj to progress into the third round of men’s singles qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Mudit Dani and Diya Chitale suffered defeats in their respective singles qualifying round matches. Two-time national champion Mukherjee could not get the better of Ukraine’s Tetyana Bilenko 5-11, 3-11, 12-10, 9-11 while Dani, who is ranked 200, was up against World No 85 Olah Benedek. He grabbed one game against his relatively higher-ranked Finnish opponent before going down 8-11, 6-11, 11-8, 6-11.

Chitale started off well against Romania’s Irina Ciobanu with a game lead. However she couldn’t capitalize on the momentum and lost the match 11-8, 9-11, 3-11, 8-11 against the world No 98.

Achanta Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran have received direct entries into the men’s singles main draw while 10 other Indians are playing in the qualifiers at the WTT Contender Doha. The tournament, which kicks off the 2021 season, is also the first international tournament Indian players are participating in after the coronavirus-forced lockdown.