September 29, 2021 1:34:20 am
India women began their campaign for Asian Table Tennis Championships with identical 3-0 wins over Jordan and Nepal and topped the Group 1 at Lusail Multipurpose Hall, Doha in Qatar on Tuesday.
Indian men’s team will directly play quarterfinals and take on Iran who will take the place of defending champions China who skipped the biennial meet.
Despite missing their top ranked player Manika Batra in their ranks who was axed after she failed to attend the mandatory national camp in Sonepat, the Indians were in complete control.
Sutirtha Mukherjee, another Tokyo Olympian led the team along with Archana Kamath, Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula, the fourth member who was not fielded. However in the second group match against Nepal, Ayhika was rested while Sreeja played.
Sutirtha took hardly 15 minutes to steamroll Bara Al-Wedian of Jordan 11-6, 11-6, 11-4 to give India 1-0 lead and Archana doubled the lead with 11-6, 11-5, 11-3 win over Taimmaa Abo-Yaman 11-6, 11-5, 11-3 in 14 minutes. Archana’s domination could be gauged from the fact that she got a 8-0 lead over her Jordanian rival and won 16 and 17 points from own serve and from her rival’s serve, respectively.
In the best of five matches, Ayhika Mukherjee hardly broke a sweat as she trounced Yara Aldmaisy 11-7, 11-1, 11-1 in 13 minutes.
In the second match against neighbours Nepal, former national junior champion Sreeja scored a facile 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 win over Elina Maharjan while Archana smashed Sikka Suwal 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 and Sutirtha Mukherjee drubbed Evana Thapa 11-2, 11-8, 11-0.
With two wins India topped Group I while Nepal who lost to Jordan 1-3 finished third behind the Gulf country.
Iran, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan emerged leaders from the remaining three groups.
Defending champions China skip Asian meet
Defending champions China skipped the continental meet as it clashed their own National Games which concluded only on Sunday. Since the players entering Doha have to undergo mandatory protocols including quarantine due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, the formidable and favourites Chinese who had dominated the proceeding in the 2019 previous edition held Yogyakarta in Indonesian by winning a clean sweep of titles, were forced to forget the Doha event.
Moreover, China being the hosts of the World Team Championships in Chengdu next year are assured of their place.
Indian men will join Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei, and Hong Kong in the quarterfinals as they finished fifth in 2019. On Wednesday, Indians led by veteran Sharath Kamal will take on Iran who were seventh in the Yogyakarta edition and got direct entry to the Championship Division in place of China. Sharath’s teammate in Tokyo, G Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty are the other members and hope to finish better than the fifth place in 2019, particularly in the absence of China.
In the other quarterfinals, Korea takes on Hong Kong while Japan and Chinese Taipei will meet qualifiers.
In the women’s category with North Korea pulling out, South Korea and Hong Kong joined Japan, Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Thailand in the last-eight stage.
Indian women competed with 12 other countries for one of the two places in the quarterfinals. On Wednesday they will have to finish top two in the matches between the group toppers.
Either Japan or Singapore will be India’s opponents in the quarters, if they beat two of the three other group leaders. Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei meet in one quarter while Thailand and South Korea Republic meet in the other.
Nepal 0 lost to India 3(Elina Maharjan lost to Sreeja Akula 6-11, 7-11, 8-11; Sikka Suwal lost to Archana Girish Kamath 6-11, 5-11, 5-11; Evana Thapa lost to Sutirtha Mukherjee 2-11, 8-11, 0-11)
India 3 bt Jordan 0 (Sutirtha Mukherjee bt Bara Al Wedian 11-6, 11-6, 11-4; Archana Girish Kamath bt Taimmaa Abo Yaman 11-6, 11-5, 11-3; Ayhika Mukherjee bt Yara Aldmaisy 11-7, 11-1, 11-1)
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