Nine spots for the Tokyo Olympics are up for grabs at the World Singles Qualification Tournament in Doha.

It was a mixed bag of a start for the Indian table tennis players at the World Singles Qualification Tournament on Sunday. While the women paddlers in Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee start their quest for the Tokyo Olympics berth on a high with wins, both Achanta Sharath Kamal and Gnanasekaran Sathiyan suffered defeats in the Men’s Singles opening matches.

Commonwealth Gold Medallist Manika Batra started on a strong note as she dominated Bulgaria’s Maria Yovkova during her 11-5, 11-7, 11-4, 11-0 win. Whereas Sutirtha faced some challenge from her opponent Belgium’s Lisa Lung but still she won the match 11-3, 11-5, 11-7, 12-10. The fourth game was very interesting and the momentum swung both ways before the Indian held her nerves and got the better of her opponent.

While the Indian women paddlers came out with flying colours in their opening matches, the same was not the case for the men. Achanta Sharath Kamal and Gnanasekaran Sathiyan both lost their opening matches and incidentally against Italian opponents. Veteran paddler Sharath Kamal started really strongly winning the first game but failed to hold the lead as the match swung in both favours at different times. But it was the Italian paddler Niagol Stoyanov who had the last laugh in his 11-9, 6-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-8, 10-12 win over the veteran. Sathiyan’s defeat was more straight forward which was actually very disappointing for the 28-year old. He lost to another Italian Mihai Bobocica 11-7, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5.

This is a tournament where a total of nine paddlers will be able to book their tickets for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Out of the nine, five spots are for the women and the remaining four are for the men. In the men’s category, the players are divided into three knockout rounds and the winner of each knockout rounds will seal their place for the Olympics. The losing finalist and semi-finalists from each of the three knockouts will be assembled in another knockout round and the winner of this round will join the other three and book his ticket to Tokyo.

It is more or less the same in the Women’s category as well, here there are four knockout rounds and each of the winners get to book their place in the Olympics. While the losing finalists and the semifinalists fight for the remaining berth by creating another knockout round and the winner gets to seal the last spot.

For now, all eyes will be on the Indian women paddlers who have started brightly and will hopefully carry on that momentum to the upcoming matches.

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