Costantini expects Indians to cause a few upsets

With the preparations in full swing to host the USD 150,000 Seamasters ITTF World Tour India Open table tennis here next week, India’s coach Massimo Constantini has set realistic goals ahead of the sport’s richest international event hosted in the country.

The Italian, who helped the Indian team prepare for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, was re-appointed as coach last August.   -  K. Ananthan

With the preparations in full swing to host the USD 150,000 Seamasters ITTF World Tour India Open table tennis here next week, India’s coach Massimo Constantini has set realistic goals ahead of the sport’s richest international event hosted in the country.

The Italian, who helped the Indian team prepare for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, was re-appointed as coach last August. With the core of the team being the same as the one he coached six years ago, Costantini knows only too well the capabilities of squad.

“It is strange that each time I have meetings with the authorities, all I’m asked is, how many medals could be expected from the team. I have often said that winning medals is a slow process. We have to work hard and stick to the process,” said Costantini on Friday, as the Indians practised at the preparatory camp at the Nehru Stadium. The camp was planned to be shifted to the main venue, Thyagraj Sports Complex, on Saturday but the organisers were yet to get full possession of the playing and practice arenas at the stadium.

“Among the men, Sharath Kamal obviously looks good and Soumyajit Ghosh is closing the gap. G. Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai have also performed well in the recent National championship. Much depends on the draw. Since they are playing at home, the conditions should favour them. A couple of upsets from the Indians cannot be ruled out,” said Costantini.

In the ladies section, that has attracted only 12 overseas names, it is likely that there could be a draw of 16. That means, Manika Batra will get a direct entry into the main draw by virtue of her world ranking while the other three spots will be decided following the qualifying rounds involving 15 Indians.

“I am not yet clear about the size of the draw in the ladies section. But certainly, the qualifying rounds will feature only Indians. Going by the form displayed by Madhurika Patkar (the reigning National champion), I expect her to be in the main draw. She is capable of causing an upset.”

Costantini continued: “Going beyond the event next week, we play the Thailand Open (March 29 to April 2) on our way to the Asian Championship (April 9 to 16 at Wuxi, China). I expect our players to produce some surprises. These are small goals for now. I can see the intensity of their training is getting better. Thanks to the competition within this group, the quality is improving. There are some young players who are going to test the seniors. Manav Thakkar has the potential to move to the next level in the coming months.”

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