New Delhi: Indian men paddlers, despite failing to go past the quarterfinal stage when they went down 1-3 to Japan in a late-night match yesterday, reserved their Champions Division berth in the next edition today.
This became possible when they defeated Singapore 3-0 in Positions 5-8 match of the 24th ITTF Asian Table Tennis Championships at Yogyakarta this morning as India would take on Hong Kong in the match for fifth position, to be played tomorrow. Hong Kong defeated Iran 3-1.
For the first time, irrespective of the results, the Indian men have secured a quarterfinal spot in the Champions Division as the top-six finishers gain direct entry in the next Championships, two years hence.
“This is an achievement in itself,” said Sharath Kamal, who played an important role in carving out a laboured win against Singapore today. This was despite the exhaustion which forced him to withdraw against Tomokazu Harimoto last night. “I was happy to see India through today,” he added.
In the match against Singapore, Sathiyan beat Poh Shao Feng Ethan in straight games of 11-5, 11-5, 13-11. But Sharath, still trying regain from the weakness he suffered because of low BP in the late-night match, downed Pang Yew En Koen, in a comeback win. He reserved his best for the last two games and pulled it off nicely, winning 7-11, 13-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-3, and put India 2-0 ahead.
Anthony Amalraj was the third-choice player this morning and it proved a right option for India as the former national champion downed Chua Josh Shao Han 7-1, 11-7, 15-13, 11-9.
Coming back to the quarterfinal match, India could not have asked for a better start against No. 4 seed Japan last night which got delayed because of live telecast obligations. In the match that went past midnight time in Indonesia, Sathiyan beat Harimoto 11-4, 11-7, 12-10 to give India the lead. But soon after Maharu Yoshimura accounted for Sharath 11-8, 10-12, 11-5, 14-12, allowing Takuya Jin overcome Harmeet Desai 11-7, 6-11, 11-6, 11-2.
In the reverse singles, a visibly exhausted Sharath was down 3-7 in the opening game and then conceded the tie 7-11, 0-11, 0-11, as Japan won 3-1 to enter the semi-finals.
Last evening, the Indian women finished ninth, pushing Malaysia a spot behind. The combination of Manika Batra, Madhurika Patkar and Archana Kamath made it look easy with a 3-0 verdict against the Malaysian rivals.