Indian men and women are just one win away from securing their maiden qualification for Olympics, following their contrasting victories against Luxembourg and Sweden respectively in the Team Qualifier in Gondomar, Portugal on Wednesday.
India’s men’s highest-ranked player G Sathiyan took some time adjusting to the pimpled rubber of Luka Mladenovic but other than that it was a straight forward tie for the fifth seeds who play 11th seeds Slovenia in the all-important round of 16 clash on Friday.
A quarterfinal finish guarantees qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. India have never qualified as a team in Olympic history, limiting its participation in individual events.
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.
— Sharath Kamal (@sharathkamal1) January 21, 2020
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.
Like the men, the Indian women too are a win away from creating history. The 17th seeds 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.
However, 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.
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