KOLKATA: It will be a fight among teammates as India are expected to book at least two Olympics table tennis berths from the Asian qualification meet, which is starting in Doha on Thursday.
Six players each in the men’s and women’s singles categories will make the cut from this event where the players are divided into groups based on geographical regions of Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. Players of West Asia will not compete, having already qualified for Tokyo.
The winner of each group, played in round-robin format, will make the Olympics. With five group winners (including West Asia) getting a spot, the sixth and final spot will go to the highest-ranked player on the reserves list.
However, unlike the World Singles Qualification Tournament that concluded earlier this week, the competition in this meet is expected to be much easier.
The Indian men’s duo of Achanta Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran are placed alongside Pakistan’s Rameez Muhammad (World No. 690) in the South Asia group. So it’s likely to be a fight between Sharath and Sathiyan for one berth.
In the women’s singles, it’s going to be a straight clash between World No. 62 Manika Batra and World No. 95 Sutirtha Mukherjee as there are only two entries in the South Asia group.
Only one mixed doubles Olympics berth is on offer, where World No. 19 Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra are the sole Indian pair in contention. Ranked second-best, they stand a good chance of emerging the winner of a knockout tournament which will give them a ticket to Tokyo.