The Indian men’s and women’s table-tennis teams are one win away from sealing a maiden Olympics berth, following their contrasting victories against Luxembourg and Sweden respectively in the Team Qualifier at Gondomar in Portugal on Wednesday. Also Read - India's COVID-19 Tally Nears 6 Million; 10 States, UTs Account For 75% of New Cases | Key Points
G Sathiyan, India’s highest-ranked player, took some time to settle down against Luka Mladenovic but other than that it was a straight forward tie for the fifth seeds who next play 11th seeds Slovenia in the all-important round of 16 clash on Friday. Also Read - Modi Addresses UNGA: From COVID Vaccine, 'AatmaNirbhar Bharat' Vision to Terrorism, UN Reform | Highlights From Today's Speech
If the men’s team reach the quarter-finals, then they will be assured a berth as a team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which will be a watershed moment in Indian table-tennis history. Also Read - India's COVID-19 Tally Surpasses 59 Lakh-mark, Deaths Stand at 93,379; Recovery Rate Reaches 82% | Key Points
Against Luxembourg, Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai got India off to a winning start, beating Gilles Michely and Eric Glod 11-9, 16-14, 116 in the opening doubles. In the subsequent singles, world number 30 Sathiyan lost the first two games against Mladenovic before fighting back to prevail 8-11, 9-11, 11-3, 13-11, 11-6. Veteran Sharath, ranked 33, conceded a game to Glod but eventually won 11-3, 11-3, 12-14, 11-5 to complete a 3-0 victory.
The seedings suggest that India are a much better side than Slovenia but Sharath said it will be 50-50 contest. “They have a pretty balanced team,” he told PTI, referring to the presence of 40th ranked Darko Jorgic and 62nd ranked Bojan Tokic in the Slovenian camp.
Slovenia beat Iran 3-1 in their round of 32 match.
Similarly, the women’s team, seeded 17th, had a much tougher draw, but they pipped 11th seeds Sweden 3-2 after Archana Kamath saved a match point to beat Linda Bergstrom in the fifth and deciding rubber. She won 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11. The foundation of the memorable victory was laid by top-ranked Indian Manika Batra, who won both her singles, beating Bergstrom and Christina Kallberg 3-1 and 3-2 respectively.
The Indians will have to produce something special if they are to down a much stronger Romania in the pre-quarterfinals on Friday. Manika, ranked at 61, is the sole Indian in the top-100 while Romania boast of 19th ranked Bernadette Szocs and 31st ranked Elizabeta Samara.