Indian paddlers’ 2020 Olympics hopes in team event come to an end.
India’s table tennis men's team were unable to take any of the nine Olympic places available at the 2020 ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament in Gondomar, Portugal, as their campaign ended with a 1-3 loss to the Czech Republic in the quarter-final of the plate event.
After the Indian table tennis men’s team had lost to Slovenia at the quarter-final of the first stage, where a win would have guaranteed them a ticket to the Olympics, winning the second stage was the only way they could have competed in Tokyo 2020.
However, the fifth-seeded Indian men's team went down against the Czech Republic on a day when stars Sharath Achanta Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran weren’t at the top of their game.
A strong start was a problem for the Indian team in their last tie against Slovenia as well, where the duo of Sharath Achanta Kamal and Harmeet Desai had gone down 0-3 against Deni Kozul and Bojan Tokic.
Their clash against the Czech Republic on Saturday was no different as they went down 1-3 against Tomas Polansky and Lubomir Jancarik. Barring the first game of the tie, where the Indian duo stretched the scoreline to win 14-12, the first match was largely one-sided as the Czechs won 11-5, 11-9, 11-9.
The cagey start influenced the team’s confidence as world no. 30 Sathiyan Gnanasekaran was unable to impress in his match against Pavel Sirucek. He was consequently beaten 0-3 in no time as India trailed 0-2.
With the women’s team out of contention for the Olympic qualification, it was India’s last chance and their most experienced paddler stepped up to the occasion.
Playing against Lubomir Jancarik, Sharath Achanta Kamal, ranked 33rd in the world, ended up winning three consecutive games after losing the first one, as India reduced the deficit to 1-2.
The remaining two matches were do-or-die for the Indian paddlers and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran treated them in a similar manner. Coming up against Tomas Polansky, Sathiyan took the first game to the wire before winning it 16-14.
The two paddlers went toe-to-toe for the next two games with each winning one as Sathiyan led 2-1 with India looking to level the proceedings at one point.
However, Polansky came back stronger after the break as he won consecutive games, 11-8 and 11-9, to seal the tie and the fate of India as well, who are now out of the 2020 Olympics.
With all the qualification events now over for Tokyo 2020, India’s table tennis contingent will not be able to send a team to the Olympics yet again.
With the ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament filling 15 slots for the table tennis men’s team competition at Tokyo 2020, the 16th and the last place will be taken by the host country, Japan.