Sathiyan, Archana eye Olympic berth in mixed doubles

Things are looking bright for G. Sathiyan, who is keen to build on the reputation of being the first Indian to break into the top-25.

With precisely 51 weeks left for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Sathiyan is hoping to make serious bid, with Archana Kamath, for a slot in the 16-pair draw in mixed doubles.   -  biswaranjan rout

Things are looking bright for G. Sathiyan, who is keen to build on the reputation of being the first Indian to break into the top-25.

With precisely 51 weeks left for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the 24th-ranked is not only looking to grab a place in the singles draw of 64, but also ready to make a serious bid, with Archana Kamath, for a slot in the 16-pair draw in mixed doubles.

Since there is a cap of one pair per country, Sathiyan and Archana will be competing with the reigning Asian Games bronze medallists Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra.

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“Right now, Archana and I are ranked 31 (as per Olympic rankings for July) whereas Sharath and Manika are 19th. Should we break into the top-20 of the world rankings before the qualification cycle ends (in April next year), we have a great chance,” said Sathiyan, who along with Archana, recently claimed the Commonwealth gold in mixed doubles.

“Archana is playing unbelievably well in mixed doubles. That also helps in bringing out the best in me. Though it is not easy to make the grade for Tokyo, we will give it a shot in the right earnest,” assures the ONGC employee.

So far, only Germany has booked its berth in the mixed doubles after gaining the lone spot on offer in the European Games in June. Japan, as a host is assured of entry.

Other 14 places will be accounted for as follows: four from the 2019 World Tour Grand Finals, two each from 2020 World Tour German Open and 2020 World Tour Qatar Open, and one each from the qualification events of North America, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania and the 2020 Japan Open.

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- Buttoning loose ends -

Going forward, Sathiyan said, “In the upcoming World Tour events, we plan to take our rankings higher. We need to train harder and look to work on areas that need attention.”

Looking back at his recent four-medal haul, comprising two gold and as many silver medals, from the Commonwealth championship in Cuttack, Sathiyan said, “I am pleased with the overall performance but it could have been better. Playing so many back to back matches in one week, probably took its toll towards the business end (in singles and doubles).

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“I guess all the players, both from India and abroad, took time to adjust to the bounce of the ball and the nature of the tables used in the championship. The World Tour events use one brand of table and balls which are different from the ones used in India. But then, I understand, it was the same for everyone.

Sathiyan, while regretting the loss of the singles title to Harmeet Desai by letting go of a 6-3 lead in the decider, hailed the eventual champion. “He played as though he had nothing to lose. I panicked and paid the price. But credit to Harmeet for dealing so well with the pressure.”

Talking about the Ultimate Table Tennis League, where he leads title-holder Dabang Delhi, Sathiyan pointed to the quality on display. “Some of the matches are top-class. It is engaging and the players are giving it all. In the past seasons, too, we Indians gained from playing and training with some of the overseas players. The trend continues.”