Table Tennis: Tough beginning for India’s mixed doubles pair

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Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  The draw for the table tennis events is out and India’s mixed doubles pairing of A Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra will open their campaign with a to­ugh match against third seeds Lin Yun-ju and Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei on Saturday. It was expected the Indian pair would face one of the top doubles pairs early on in the compe­tition and that is exactly what happened in the draw.

Coach Soumyadeep Roy, who is with the paddlers in Tokyo, refused to term the draw as unlucky. “We knew due to our ranking that we would have to face one of the big teams. We have beaten World No 5 pair in the past and so instead of regretting, we are looking forward to the challenge,” he told this daily from Games Village.

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A lot has been written about India’s best shot at an Olympic medal in the sport in this section but Roy said there has not been any such talk in the camp. “Pressure is part of the game but the top seeds have much more riding on this match than us. We are confident and as soon as the draw was over, we started discussions about strategy and we will be watching videos of our opponent tonight and start our specific practice from tomorrow,” the former paddler said. 

Due to the mixed event starting early on July 24, both Sharath and Manika will skip the opening ceremony on Friday. G Sathiyan and Sutirtha Mukherjee will attend. In Singles, both Sharath and G Sathiyan have received byes in the first round and will directly play in the second round. Sharath is likely to face Tiago Apolonia of Portugal in Round 2 and the winner might have to face the legend Ma Long next. Sathiyan will meet either of Brian Afanador or Lam Siu Hang and might come face-to-face with Japanese prodigy Tomokazu Harimoto in Round 3. 

“I’m not thinking about Harimoto yet. Fully focussed on my opening match. Need to take things one match at a time and I’ve already spoken to my coach S Raman Sir and we are confident of doing our best,” was Sathiyan’s guarded response. 

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Manika is set to face-off against Great Britain’s Ho Tin-Tin in Round one and if she wi­ns, she will go up against Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska in Round 2 followed by Sofia Polcanova of Austria in the third. Sutirtha Mukherjee will open her debut Olympic campaign against Sweden’s Linda Bergstrom in the first round who is a chopper. Victory will see her take on Portugal’s Yu Fu in the second round and the host’s Mima Ito in the third ro­und. “Sutirtha used to struggle against choppers but we have worked hard on that aspect,” Roy stated.

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