How did Indian athletes fare at the World Table Tennis Championships and how will it affect the 2023 Asian Games?
ITTF World Table Tennis Championships, one of the biggest table tennis events on the calendar, kicked off May 20 at the Durban International Convention Center in South Africa. From China to Germany, the tournament featured top players from all over the world. Hence, the hype of the league was already at the forefront before it even started.
Not to mention, Cadbury Dairy Milks #CheerForAllSports campaign was a great initiative to make the Indian athlete feel better in Dublin and boost their morale while getting support from their friends, family and fans back home.
Many Indian rowers competed in the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships in both singles and doubles categories. The names were:
Men’s Singles: Sharath Kamal AchantaG Sathiyan and Manush Shah
Men’s doubles: Sharath Kamal Achanta, G. SathiyanHermeet Desai and Manush Shah
Women’s Singles Qualifications: Manika BatraSreeja Akula, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Reeth Tennison.
Women’s Doubles Qualifications: Manika Batra, Archana Kamath, Sreeja Akulaand Diya Chitale
Indian participation ahead of the tournament looked stacked as the fans held high hopes for the talented rowers. From experience and skill to talent and agility, the Indians had what it takes to perform well on the world stage. However, the Indian rowers had an unforgettable campaign at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships in Dublin.
How did Indian rowers perform at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships?
On the first day of the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships, the Indian rowers got off to a losing start. Manush Shah faced South Korea’s Cho Seungmin in his first round match of the championship where Shah was unable to overcome the challenge despite a tough fight as he lost 4-1.
Harmeet Desai, India’s second hope in men’s singles, also got off to a disappointing start as Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia knocked him out 4-1 in the first round. In addition, Sutirtha Mukherjee also lost to Tatiana Kukulkova (3-4) in the first round on the opening day. However, good news came from women’s singles as Sreeja Akula and Reeth Tennison won their respective first round matches dominantly in women’s singles.
Women’s doubles pair Manika Batra/Archana Kamath and mixed doubles pair Gnanasekaran Sathiyan/Manika Batra also advanced to the round of 32 in their respective disciplines with astonishing wins.
The second day of the championship was full of victory attempts for the Indians as after recording singles victories, Gnanasekaran and Sharath Kamal Achanta also stormed into the men’s doubles round of 32 in style. Manika Batra and mixed doubles pair Manav Vikash Thakkar/Archana Girish Kamath also achieved success and advanced to the respective next rounds.
On day three, Indian hopes took a huge blow as Achanta and Akula were knocked out in the Round of 128 despite valiant efforts. However, Manika Batra went strong with all Indian aspirations on her shoulders.
Thus, India’s last hope in men’s singles, Gnanasekeran, and female paddler, Tennison also lost on the fourth day. In addition, mixed doubles pair Manav Thakkar/ Archana Kamath was also eliminated on the same day, leading to a miserable state of affairs in South Africa.
The fifth day of the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships ended India’s hopes of a podium finish. The day started with Sharath Kamal & Gnanasekeran Sathiyan losing to arch rivals Paul Drinkhall & Liam Pitchford. Moreover, Adriana Diaz also ended Manika Batra’s hopes with a 4-3 defeat in the Round of 16.
Thus, the last Indian pairs remaining in doubles gave up completely when Manika Batra / Archana Kamath and Manika Batra / Gnanasekaran Sathiyan also failed to win in Durban. As a result, no Indian paddler managed to reach the quarter finals in South Africa.
How will India’s participation in ITTF World Table Tennis Championships affect their run-up to the Asian Games?
On a larger scale, postponing certain events (such as the Asian Games from 2022 to 2023) has a significant negative impact on athletes’ mental health. They are struggling because they have to plan according to the new dates that are being provided, because that is also when the federation activities take place. Athletes usually compete in both solo and team competitions, leaving them too exhausted.
However, looking back at India’s performance at the 2018 Asian Games, the rowers managed to secure two bronze medals. The podium places were secured in men’s and mixed doubles events. Thus, Indian paddlers will look forward to a promotion and securing at least a pair of silver medals in Hangzhou.
Nevertheless, looking at their current performance, it seems difficult. China’s absolute dominance in table tennis is undeniable. The majority of medals in all disciples are won by China at the Asian Games and, on the bigger stage, the Olympics. Looking at the last three editions of the Asian Games, China has only leaked one gold medal, in mixed doubles in 2014, which was won by North Korea.
In addition, the 2023 Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, which will provide Chinese athletes with home field advantage. Consequently, denying top Chinese players leading the rankings such as Fan Zhendong, Wang Chuqin, Ma Long, Sun Yingsha, Wang Manyu, Wang Yidi and more seems highly unlikely for the Indian peddlers.
Aside from the hosts, South Korea and Japan are other worrying roadblocks for India on its way to a successful campaign. This disappointing run in South Africa is likely to lead India to a worrying campaign in China in September.
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