Tokyo 2020: Indian paddlers handed tough draws, Sharath-Manika pair to face third seed in opener
Batra, ranked 62, though got an easy women’s singles first round where she will face Great Britain’s Ho Tin-Tin, ranked 32 places below the Indian. Should she win the opening round, Batra will lock horns with Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska, world no 36, in the next round followed by Sofia Polcanova of Austria, who is ranked 17, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Sharath and Manika had sealed the Olympics berth in mixed doubles after beating world number eight Korean Sang-Su Lee and Jihee Jneon in the final of Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in March.
Before leaving for Tokyo, the duo could practice only for three days in the national camp before Batra returned to her training base in Pune. The duo that won a bronze in 2018 Asian Games will not have it easy against the Taipei pair, a left-right combination.
The left-handed Lin, ranked No. 6 in the world, has speed and potent forehand while Cheng, ranked No. 8, brings in a lot of experience and variety. The Indian pair needs to win three matches to be in medal contention.
In the men’s draw, Sharath and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran seeded 20th and 26th respectively, received first round byes. Their opponents for the second round will depend on the winners from first round matches. However, the going will not be easy for the duo as Sharath is slated to meet Rio Olympics champion China’s Ma Long, seeded second, in the third round should the Indian win his second round match.
Sharath has never won against the Chinese whom he has met twice in 2011 and 2012. The veteran paddler is scheduled to take on either Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia or Nigeria’s Olajide Omotayo in the second round on Monday. Sathiyan, on the other hand, will meet either Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador or Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang in his second round match on Sunday.
The 28-year-old will run into Japanese teen-sensation Tomokazu Harimoto, seeded third, in the third round if he wins his second round match. But the Indian will head to the fixture full of confidence having beaten Tomokazu in the Asian Championships though the team lost the rubber in 2019.
The other female singles paddler in the fray, Sutirtha Mukherjee will take on Linda Bergstrom of Sweden in the first round. If Suthirtha wins her opening match she will face Portugal’s Yu Fu, ranked 55, in the second round, and much tougher Mima Ito of Japan, world No. 30, in the third.
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