Table Tennis: Sharath Kamal first Indian paddler to qualify for Tokyo Olympics
New Delhi, March 18, 2021
Achanta Sharath Kamal became the first Indian paddler to book a spot at the Tokyo Olympic Games after he defeated Pakistani opponent Muhammad Rameez in the second singles round-robin match in the South Asia group at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha on Thursday.
The veteran suffered an initial defeat against fellow countryman Gnansekaran Sathiyan 9-11, 13-15, 11-5, 11-7, 12-10, 9-11, 8-11 in the opening match of the group.
However, he looked in complete control against Rameez as he took just over 22 minutes to wrap up the game 11-4, 11-1, 11-5, 11-4 comfortably and seal the Tokyo berth with at least a second-place finish in the group, and by virtue of being the highest-ranked paddler in the event.
“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.
With six quota places each up for grabs for the Olympics in the men’s and women’s category from this final qualifying tournament, the group topper of five zones will go through. The remaining one quota berth is awarded to the highest-ranked second-placed player in the event. Sharath being the top-ranked No. 2 player in the group, secured the Olympic berth under the Asian quota.
Sharath also cruised into the semi-finals in the mixed doubles semi-finals with Manika Batra as they defeated Mohammed Abdulwahhab and Maha Faramarzi of Qatar 11-6, 11-6, 11-2, 11-3 in the quarters.
The star Indian pair, who received a bye in the first round, will now take on Koen Pang Yew En and Ye Lin of Singapore in the semi-final on Friday.
Sathiyan too is now just one win away from joining Sharath in qualifying for the Tokyo Games as he takes on Rameez in the final round-robin South Asian group game later tonight.
Other Indians in action will be Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee as they will play an all-Indian women’s singles South Asia group match and the winner will grab a place in the Olympics.