Gondomar (Portugal), Jan 23 (IANS) The Indian men and women table tennis teams are just one win away each from securing their maiden Olympics qualification after they recorded respective victories against Luxembourg and Sweden in the World Team Qualification Tournament on Thursday.
A quarterfinal finish will ensure qualification for the Tokyo Olympics for India, which has never made it as a team in Olympic history.
It was Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai who helped India to get a winning start, beating Gilles Michely and Eric Glod 11-9, 16-14, 11-6 in the opening doubles.
India’s highest ranked paddler G. Sathiyan then lost the first two games in the singles match against Luka Mladenovic before fighting back to prevail 8-11, 9-11, 11-3, 13-11, 11-6.
Sharath then conceded a game to Glod but eventually won 11-3, 11-3, 12-14, 11-5 to complete a 3-0 victory.
“You know, I can’t finish a match too early. So after 11-3, 11-3, I had to give away one set,” said Sharath in zest.
“I’m very happy with the way we won, especially after Sathiyan made it from being match-point down. In doubles, we did well. Harmeet and I certainly struggled a bit but then it was fine. In singles, I hit a nice rhythm in the first few points. I’m feeling good,” Sharath added.
He also admitted that the pre-quarterfinals against Slovenia on Friday would not be as easy. “It’s going to be pretty close with all their players around. We haven’t played against each other that much but I do hope we can convert our chances.”
Slovenia beat Iran 3-1 in their round of 32 match and will now take on India.
“The Slovenia game will be 50-50. We have to give our best,” Sathiyan told IANS.
“I hadn’t played Luka for a long time. He uses long pimples (on the backhand side) and it took time for me to settle down in the first game. But he brought in good variations and was really quick,” said Sathiyan.
He also admitted that he shouldn’t have lost the second set but he made some mistakes. “Yet, I’m happy to have kept my cool in the end-points,” he added.
The Indian women too are a win away from creating history and making their maiden appearance at the Olympic level.
They beat Sweden 3-2 after Archana Kamath beat Linda Bergstrom in the fifth and deciding rubber. She won 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11.
Earlier, top-ranked Indian Manika Batra won both her singles matches, prevailing over Bergstrom and Christina Kallberg 3-1 and 3-2, respectively.
India will now have to get past Romania in the pre-quarterfinals on Friday.