The Indian men’s and women’s table-tennis teams failed to live up to expectations as they lost to Slovenia and Romania respectively in the pre-quarterfinals of the Olympic qualifying team event which has severely dented their hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The women’s team, seeded 17th, played their hearts before losing to fifth seeds Romania 2-3, the men disappointed with their 1-3 defeat against Slovenia.
The fifth seeded men’s team comprising G Sathiyan (world rank 30) and veteran Sharath Kamal (WR 33) was expected to get the better of 11th seeded Slovenia. They won the opening doubles match, but Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai and Sharath failed to cross the line in the singles.
The teams were just vying for a quarter-final finish which would have guaranteed them a place at the Summer Games. However, all is not lost. They have to win the plate division to qualify. All losers in the round of 16 will take part in the knock-out plate event.
World number 40 Darko Jorkic beat both Sathiyan (11-9, 12-10, 11-3) and Sharath (10-12, 11, 12-10, 11-8) to give Slovenia a memorable victory.
The Indian women’s team played really well to take Romania to the distance before running out of steam.
After Ayhika Mukhejee and Sutirtha Mukherjee lost the opening doubles, India number one and 61st ranked Manika Batra levelled the tie with a fine win over world number 19 Bernadette Szocs.
Manika made very good use of the pimpled rubber to tame the Romanian, winning 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7. However, Romania regained the lead in the match after Elizabeta Samara steamrolled Ayhika 10-12, 11-5, 2-11, 7-11. It was still a creditable effort from the women’s team which had beaten Sweden in the round of 32.