New Delhi: The Indian men and women’s table tennis squads failed to grab what was a golden opportunity to create history at the 2020 ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament for Tokyo Olympics in Gondomar, Portugal, on Friday.
After Manika Batra botched up in the deciding rubber against Romania’s Daniela Monteiro in the round of 16 as the European side won 3-2, it was the turn of our men paddlers, who were rubbed on the wrong side by Slovenia, to disappoint their Indian fans with a 1-3 defeat.
Though these losses have, more or less, ended India’s campaign to qualify for the team events of the Summer Games, the squads still have an outside chance to earn their tickets to Tokyo if they manage to win the second stage knockout matches—an uphill task considering the way they folded up today.
The eight teams that lost the round of 16 matches play knockout matches to seal the last berth available from the on-going event.
But it must be admitted that the women did better on the day than their men counterparts as resistance from an unexpected quarter—Sutirtha Mukherjee, who defeated world No. 19, Bernadette Szocs 3-2 (8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 3-11, 11-4) came in the fourth rubber after Ahyhika Mukherjee lost her singles to Elizabeta Samara. The left-hander won 12-10, 5-11, 11-2, 11-7. Earlier, the Indian pair of Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee lost to Samara and Moteiro 2-3. However, Manika levelled the score, beating fancied Szocs, ranked No. 19, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7. But the Indian, ranked No. 61, lost as Monteiro, ranked No. 134, won 11-8, 11-4, 3-11, 11-2 in the decider putting paid to India’s chances.
As if this heartbreak was not enough, the fifth seeded Indian men team fell tamely to No.11 seeds Slovenia, for whom Darko Jorgic drove the last nail in the coffin when he beat Sharath Kamal 3-1 (10-12, 11-7, 12-10, 11-8) for an emphatic 3-1 triumph.
Slovenia took a firm grip against Team India, leading them by 2-1 despite Harmeet Desai’s valiant efforts against Bojan Tokic who won the battle after being a game down (5-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-5, 11-6). Earlier, G. Sathiyan on whom a lot depended lost 9-11, 10-12, 3-11 to Darko as he restored parity after the Indian duo of Sharath and Harmeet won the opening rubber against Deni Kozul and Tokic 11-9, 11-7, 11-5.