Tokyo Olympics: Indian table tennis players profile, ranking, opponents, form guide

Here are the profiles and form guides of the Indian paddlers in action at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Let's get you up to speed!

Sharath Kamal

Sharath Kamal received the last qualifying berth from Asian Olympic Qualification.   -  ITTF

Sharath Kamal

Age: 39

Ranking: 32

Form guide in 2021: WTT Contender - Second round; WTT Star Contender - Pre-quarterfinals; World singles Qualification - 1st round; Asian Olympic Qualification - runner-up.

Sharath Kamal received the last qualifying berth from the Asian Olympic qualification to ensure his fourth appearance at the Games. Before the postponement of Tokyo 2020, Sharath looked in great form after winning the Oman Open in March last year – his second international title in a decade. He has not looked as sharp since then, losing to compatriot G. Sathiyan in the semifinals of the 2021 national championships, which the players used as a warm-up event before leaving for Doha for two WTT events and two chances to qualify for the Olympics.

Sharath lost to Sathiyan again at the Asian qualifier, in the four-man group league. Sharath then waited for confirmation of his qualification from the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) as the highest-ranked runner-up. For what could well be his last Olympics, Sharath has trained hard in Chennai and later at the national coaching camp in Sonepat. Since no Indian has ever won a match at the Olympics, it is futile to talk about the country’s medal prospects.

G. Sathiyan

Age: 28

Ranking: 38

Form guide in 2021: WTT Contender - 1st round; WTT Star Contender - 2nd round; World singles Qualification - 1st round; Asian Olympic Qualification - Winner.

A trainee of Olympian and former National champion S. Raman, Sathiyan has played in various leagues across continents and sharpened his skill sets.   -  G. Ramakrishna

 

Eager to prove himself at his first Olympics, Sathiyan should be seen as the most motivated player in the Indian contingent. A trainee of Olympian and former national champion S. Raman, he has played in various leagues across continents and sharpened his skill sets. Significantly, Sathiyan has beaten Sharath twice this year. He deservedly won his maiden national title, too, to get the monkey off his back.

Given the rankings, Sathiyan should not be expected to go deep in the draw. Though he has a career win over world No. 5 and Japan No. 1 Tomokazu Harimoto, besides stretching some other big names, Sathiyan is yet to get his game together on the big stage. With Sharath close to calling it a day, Sathiyan is ready to take over as the friendly, inspiring champion for the next generation.

Manika Batra

Age: 26

Ranking: 62

Form guide in 2021: WTT Contender - 2nd round; WTT Star Contender - 2nd round; World singles Qualification - Semifinals; Asian Olympic Qualification - Runner-up.

Manika Batra

Manika caught the imagination of the nation with her exploits in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.   -  AP

 

Manika caught the imagination of the nation with her exploits at the Commonwealth Games in 2018, and later that year she added an unexpected bronze at the Asian Games in mixed doubles with Sharath. However, since then, she has had nothing to show from the international arena. In 2021, she justified her top billing by winning the national title.

Unlike Sharath and Sathiyan, who do upstage higher-ranked players at regular intervals, Manika has struggled to win big matches. Just when it appeared that the Indian women had a clean shot at entering the Olympic Games as a team, Manika surrendered, rather tamely, to a lower-ranked rival in the crunch match.

Like Sharath, Manika was presented with the last Asian spot based on rankings after her loss in the continental qualifying event. With just two players in the hunt, Sutirtha Mukherjee came out stronger and Manika was left to make it to Tokyo as the highest-ranked runner-up.

One big reason for Manika’s non-performance on the international stage is that her choice of defensive rubber on the backhand side of her racquet no longer takes the opposition by surprise. She gained from the use of long-pimpled rubber till 2018, but the bigger names now appear well prepared for it.

Despite a string of ordinary performances since the 2018 Asian Games, Manika remains the unquestioned princess of Indian table tennis. However, all that could change quickly if she falls short of making a telling impression, beginning with the Tokyo Games.

Sutirtha Mukherjee

Age: 25

Ranking: 98

Form guide in 2021: WTT Contender - 1st round; WTT Star Contender - 2nd round; World singles Qualification - 2nd round; Asian Olympic Qualification - Winner.

National champion in 2020, Sutirtha was a surprise package among the Olympic qualifiers.   -  Special Arrangement

 

The national champion in 2020, Sutirtha was indeed a surprise package among the Olympic qualifiers. She overpowered Manika for a place in Tokyo. A player who surprises everyone with her fairly swift movements around the table, Sutritha has done enough to be counted among the better players in the country. A trainee of former national champion Soumyadeep Roy, Sutirtha came up with a few impressive performances in the last edition of the Ultimate Table Tennis League in New Delhi. But in Tokyo, her low ranking is sure to place her against one of the big names in the early rounds. Since there are no expectations from her, she can play freely and gain immense experience. expectations from her, Sutirtha can play freely and gain immense experience.

Mixed doubles:

Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra

Ranking: 19

Form guide in 2021: WTT Contender - 1st round; WTT Star Contender - 1st round; Asian Olympic Qualification - Winner.

Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal qualified for the mixed doubles by stunning the Korean pair of Lee Sangsu and Jeon Jihee, ranked eighth in the world.   -  FILE PHOTO/PTI

 

The duo qualified for the mixed doubles by stunning the South Korean pair of Lee Sang-su and Jeon Ji Hee, ranked eighth in the world. Sharath and Manika’s 4-2 victory after being 0-2 down was the biggest surprise of the qualification event.

The duo hardly trains together. Even after claiming a surprise bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games, Sharath and Manika have practised rather casually without ever looking serious about their training. On Sharath’s insistence, Manika came to Chennai to train for the mixed doubles but left after just three days. Again, when the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) organised a 23-day camp at Sonepat, she reluctantly reported and left after the first three days.

In the background of this casual approach to mixed doubles in the days leading up to the Games, Sharath has spoken about the possibility of winning a lucky medal in the 16-team event, but Manika’s apparent disinterest to train for the event inspires no confidence.

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