January 24, 2020 9:50:03 pm
Indian men and women failed to deliver when it mattered most, losing to Slovenia and Romania respectively in the pre-quarterfinals of the Olympic qualifying team event to significantly reduce their chances qualifying for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
While the 17th seeded women played their hearts before losing to fifth seeds Romania 2-3, the men disappointed with their 1-3 defeat against Slovenia. The fifth-seeded men’s team comprising G Sathiyan (world rank 30) and veteran Sharath Kamal (WR 33) was expected to get the better of 11th seeded Slovenia.
After winning the opening doubles, Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai and Sharath came a cropper in the singles, severely denting the chances of team qualification at the Olympics.
A quarterfinal finish would have guaranteed an Olympic berth but now, both the men and women’s squad have to win the plate division to qualify. All losers in the round of 16 will take part in the knock-out plate event.
World number 40 Darko Jorkic beat both Sathiyan (11-9, 12-10, 11-3) and Sharath (10-12, 11, 12-10, 11-8) to give Slovenia a memorable victory.
The Indian women’s team played really well to take Romania to the distance before running out of steam. After Ayhika Mukhejee and Sutirtha Mukherjee lost the opening doubles, India number one and 61st ranked Manika Batra levelled the tie with a fine win over world number 19 Bernadette Szocs.
Manika made very good use of the pimpled rubber to tame the Romanian, winning 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7. However, Romania regained the lead in the match after Elizabeta Samara steamrolled Ayhika 10-12, 11-5, 2-11, 7-11.
The Indian women looked down and out before Sutirtha, ranked 157, gave a new lease of life to her team with a fighting win over Szocs, an opponent ranked more than 100 places higher than her.
In probably her biggest win till date, Sutirtha edged Szocs 8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 3-11, 11-4. The match was levelled at 2-2.
Manika was expected to win against 134 ranked Daniela Monteiro in the fifth and deciding rubber but went down 8-11, 4-11, 11-3, 2-11, much to her and her team’s disappointment.
It was still a creditable effort from the women’s team which had beaten Sweden in the round of 32.
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