Table Tennis in Tokyo Olympics: Sharath, Manika, Sutirtha in focus

The mixed doubles pair of A. Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra, who are seeded 12th, will meet the third-seeded pair of Lin Yun Ju and Cheng I Ching at 8.30 am (IST).

The mixed doubles pair of A. Sharath Kamal (in picture)-Manika Batra will meet Lin Yun Ju-Cheng I Ching.    -  FILE PHOTO/G. RAMAKRISHNA

Three Indian paddlers will start their Tokyo Olympics campaign on Saturday. The mixed doubles pair of A. Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra, who are seeded 12th, will meet the third-seeded pair of Lin Yun Ju and Cheng I Ching. 

The match, scheduled to begin at 8.30 am IST, will be the acid test for India’s Asian Games bronze medal-winning pair in 2018.

Later in the day, Manika and Sutirtha Mukherjee will be in action in the women’s singles first round. While Manika will be up against Ho Tin-Tin of Great Britain (12:15 pm), Sutirtha will hope to repeat her recent exploits against Sweden’s Linda Bergstrom (1 pm).

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

Manika holds a 2-0 advantage in head-to-head matches. However, both the matches were played during the 2015 Commonwealth Championships in Surat. Since then, both the girls have come a long way, with Tin-Tin having defeated India’s Archana Kamath. 

Sutirtha, meanwhile, enjoys the advantage of winning the last of the two matches against Bergstrom, at the World Tour even in Hungary last year. If she can hold her nerves, she can mark her Olympic debut with a win in the round of 64.

The Chinese juggernaut

Top seeds Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen will start the proceedings in the mixed doubles pre-quarterfinal in the category that will be introduced in Tokyo.

READ| Tokyo Olympics: 19 Indian athletes to attend opening ceremony

Besides the Chinese pair, Japan’s veteran Jun Mizutani and Ito Mima will be hoping to get off the blocks quickly against Stefan Fegrel and Sofia Polcanova of Australia to enter the mixed doubles quarterfinal.

Player to watch

It will be interesting to see if Nikhil Kumar, who has joined Kanak Jha as the second paddler from the United States of America of Indian origin to feature in Tokyo 2020, will open his campaign with a win against Mongolia’s Lkhagvasuren Enkhbat.

Besides, Australia’s Melissa Tapper, who holds the rare distinction of being an Olympian and a Paralympian, will also be seen in action in the mixed doubles first round. 

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :