The Indian men’s table tennis team fell short in their bid to seal a maiden spot in the team event at Tokyo 2020, losing 1-3 to Slovenia in the round of 16 at the ITTF World Team Qualification tournament in Gondomar, Portugal on Friday.
Fifth seeded India won the opening doubles encounter, as Achanta Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai got off to a winning start.
However, India could not build on their opening win, losing the remaining three singles matches to the eleventh seeded Slovenians.
Gnanasekaran comes unstuck
After Kamal and Desai prevailed 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 over Slovenian pair Deni Kozul and Bojan Tokic, expectations were high that their top-ranked singles player, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran could move them one step closer to the 2020 Olympics.
However, Gnanasekaran surprisingly came unstuck against Darko Jorgic in straight games, losing 9-11, 10-12, 3-11.
Bojan Tokic gives Slovenia the lead
The second singles match saw Slovenia take a 2-1 lead after Harmeet Desai lost to Bojan Tokic 11-5, 10-12, 11-6, 5-11, 6-11.
The Indian paddler was in his element in the first game, holding his shape remarkably well and countering all of the Slovenian’s shots with measured returns. The disciplined performance was too much to handle for Tokic, who conceded it easily.
The latter came back in the second game though, matching Harmeet Desai point-for-point and was rewarded for refusing to give up when the Indian netted a smash. The duo exchanged games again, winning one each in a convincing manner to take it to the final game.
The experienced Bojan Tokic raced to a 4-1 lead but Harmeet Desai held him, bringing it 6-4 soon. However, the Slovenian was undeterred, allowing the lower-ranked Indian only two more points before closing out the match.
Darko Jorgic seals comeback win
The day only got better for Darko Jorgic and Slovenia as he slayed a big gun in Achanta Sharath Kamal, who lost 12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 8-11.
The veteran Indian was comfortably leading 10-4 in the first game but was given a major scare by Darko Jorgic, who reeled off some great winners to win six points in a row and level the scores at 10-10. Kamal then calmed things down and took the two points he needed to go a game up.
However, the Slovenian refused to relent, winning the second game easily and then dug deep to win the third one as well. Riding on that high, Darko Jorgic won the fourth game and sent his team into raptures as they ran from their seats to envelope him in a giant hug.
The men’s team will have to win three matches in order to qualify for the Olympics, the first of which they will play against the Czech Republic in the second stage quarter-finals on Saturday.