Stiff contest for men’s national TT crown

200 entrants to vie in group qualification events at Tau Devi Lal Stadium

Tribune News Service

Panchkula, February 19

After four days of women’s action, the men paddlers step into the arena during the UTT 82nd National Table Tennis Championships.

We will use DHS DJ 40+ balls during the tournament. It is the same ball which was used during the World Singles and Asian Qualification event in Doha and the Tokyo Olympics. — N Ganeshan, Competition Manager

The 200 entrants believe the group qualification events to be held at the Tau Devi Lal Indoor Stadium tomorrow will mark a fresh beginning with smiles back on their faces.

The focus, however, will be on top-ranked Indian and nine-time champion A Sharath Kamal. But G Sathiyan, ranked 37, will be one of the strong contenders for the title. However, both can expect more than a handful of challenges from defending champion Harmeet Desai.

The advantages Sathiyan and Harmeet over Sharath is that both got away from India at the first opportunity when the doors of some European countries opened after Covid-19 had slackened its grip a bit. Both Sathiyan and Harmeet have had serious match-practice since, having played the leagues. Sathiyan went to Japan for another set of league matches before returning to Poland.

They are back in India and will challenge each other, besides Sharath, who looks to complete a perfect 10. Yet, one cannot rule out the possibility of young guns, especially Manav Thakkar, springing a surprise. The prize purse is of Rs 2.50 lakh.

Sharath and Sathiyan have been seeded No. 1 and 2 due to their world rankings. Sathiyan, who skipped all domestic tournaments in 2019, will look to adjusting to the conditions. But Sharath, who has attended a 42-day national camp at Sonepat, knows the conditions better. He is also in good shape despite being inactive.

The other14 seeds will be picked during the open draw before Stage 2 matches begin. The remaining players, divided into 60 groups, will have three or four players each.

After the group qualification, the main draw will be filled with 128 slots, including 52 byes. However, the top 16 and a few lucky ones from among the group qualifiers will reap the benefit of first-round byes.

“We will use DHS DJ 40+ balls during the tournament. It is the same ball which was used during the World Singles and Asian Qualification event in Doha and the Tokyo Olympics,” said Competition Manager N Ganeshan.

The championships offer the best chance to players to reboot themselves for the WTT Contenders (March 3-6) and Star Contenders (March 8-13) to be held at Doha. Both are major prize money events. The World Singles (March 14-17) and Asian Olympics Qualification (March 18-20), both the gateway to Tokyo Olympics, will follow.

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