Indian paddlers have never been so good in the Asian Table Tennis Championships and are ready to finish their best in the team events for the first time.
On Wednesday, the male paddlers led by Sharath Kamal passed Iran 4-1 in the quarter-finals at Lusail Multipurpose Hall, Doha in Qatar on Wednesday evening.
On Friday, in the semi-finals, they will face South Korea who beat Hong Kong 3-1.
According to TT aficionados, India won several medals in the mid-1950s and 1960s, including three gold medals won by Gool Nashikwala in the 1952 edition in Singapore when she triumphed in singles, doubles. and in mixed doubles at the Asian meeting under the old TTFA.
Under the current dispensation of the Asian TT Union, during the 1976 edition of Pyongyang (North Korea), Manjit Dua and Vilas Menon won a bronze medal in men’s doubles.
Meanwhile, the Indian women also advanced to the quarter-finals, but their joy was short-lived as Japan shattered their dream of making a historic semi-final entry by losing 1-3.
In a late night match, Sreeja Akula lost to Hitomi Sato 5-11, 3-11, 3-11 the first match while Archana Kamath did his best before fighting against Saki Shibata 12-10, 7-11, 4-11, 12 -10, 9-11 in 40 minutes. Tokyo Olympian Sutirtha Mukherjee however managed to turn the tide by beating Miyu Nagasaki 11-7, 11-8, 5-11, 7-11, 11-8 in 39 minutes. In the reverse singles, it was the case of the briefs and the lip, when Sreeja lost to Saki narrowly 11-8, 12-10, 2-11, 9-11, 8-11 in 37 minutes.
No stopping Sharath
In the last eight games against Iran, Sharath, a three Olympics veteran, gave India the much-needed start by beating Nima Alamian who is half his age at 19 in 34 minutes but conceded a match at 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-5. In the second draw, Tokyo Olympian G Sathiyam dominated elder Alamian, Noshad 11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-6. However, Harmeet Desai failed to keep the momentum going as he began by losing the first two games to Amir Hossein Hodaei in Game 3. The national champion found parity by narrowly winning the next two. In the deciding match, Desai couldn’t compete with his Iranian rival and surrendered under pressure 8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 14-12, 7-11 in 52 minutes.
Sharath, 38, quickly returned to the table and made short work of the left-hander and Noshad, 20, 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9 to give India a historic place in the last four stages for the first time.
In the previous 2019 edition in Indonesia, India was fifth. In the absence of defending champion China, the Indians should do better.
Women do well
The sleep-deprived Indians overcame Uzbekistan 3-0 in a group winners game to advance to the quarter-finals on Wednesday morning. A championship match between Iran and Indonesia went by the wire taking maximum attention and time even as India’s second and final group game against Nepal to decide the group leaders 1 was also delayed on opening night on Tuesday. India beat Jordan in the first group game on Tuesday morning.
The Indians reached Doha for the biennial meet without their best star Manika Batra who was dropped after failing to attend the compulsory national camp in Sonepat.
On Thursday, the women will meet Chinese Taipei for a place in the 5 to 8 places.
India 4 bt Iran 1 (Sharath Kamal bt Nima Alamian 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-5; G Sathiyan bt Noshad Alamiyan 11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-6; Harmeet Desai lost to Amir Hossein Hodaei 8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 14-12, 7-11, Sharath bt Noshad 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9
India 1 lost to Japan 3 (Sreeja Akula lost to Hitomi Sato 5-11, 3-11, 3-11; Archana Girish Kamath lost to Saki Shibata 12-10, 7-11, 4-11, 12- 10, 9-11; Sutirtha Mukherjee bt Miyu Nagasaki 11-7, 11-8, 5-11, 7-11, 11-8; Sreeja bt Saki 11-8, 12-10, 2-11, 9-11, 8-11)
Group Winners Match:
Uzbekistan 0 lost to India 3 (Markhabo Magdieva lost to Archana 2-11, 5-11, 4-11; Rozalina Khadjieva lost to Sutirtha 6-11, 7-11, 3-11; Sugdiyona Madalieva lost against Ayhika 8-11, 11-8, 10-12, 7-11).