'We have a good chance to qualify'- Sathiyan ahead of Tokyo 2020 qualifiers

G.Sathiyan , Anthony Amalraj, Sharath Kamal, Manav Thakkar and Harmeet Desai took part in the training camp in Chennai for the Tokyo 2020 Qualifiers.

Harmeet Desai (left) and G. Sathiyan took part in the week-long training camp at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai   -  K.KEERTHIVASAN

The Indian men’s table tennis team ended its preparatory camp at the Hall of TT, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday, for the World Team Qualification tournament [for 2020 Tokyo Olympics] in Gondomar (Portugal). India’s best singles player G. Sathiyan joined the side for its final training session before the qualifiers, scheduled to begin on January 22.

Sathiyan and Anthony Amalraj played a few games with the duo Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai to fine-tune the doubles strategy. The moment Sathiyan completed the match with a forehand down-the-line winner, he relaxed a bit and went towards Sharath to discuss the finer points. Amalraj then joined in the discussion. Speaking later, Sathiyan said it is important the team finds the right pair for doubles, which plays a very crucial role in the qualifiers.

“Doubles plays a crucial role in Qualification as it is the first match in the tie. It is going to be a tricky as the rule is those from the doubles pair can play only in one singles each. We have to plan very carefully. That’s why we are playing here with all possible pairs. We’ve had some clear ideas and strategies. We will continue with similar training in Dusseldorf [from Jan. 13 to 20],” said Sathiyan, who is the top-ranked Indian in the world at 30.

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Sathiyan said he had a great week-long training in South Korea where he sparred with the top players of the country. “It was a great experience, the infrastructure [at the Korean National Training Centre] was fantastic."

Sathiyan however, said the Gondomar tournament will not be a cakewalk. “We have a good chance [to qualify] but it is not going to be easy. It is a knockout system [round of 64]. A lot depends on the draw. There are tough teams like Croatia and Hong Kong. We are ready for everything as everybody in good shape and I am confident that we will make the cut,” the 26-year-old Arjuna awardee, who will be leaving to Germany on Wednesday to take part in the semifinals of the German Cup for his team ASV Grunwettersbach, said.

Harmeet, the third best singles player, ranked 85th in the world after Sathiyan and Sharath, said the camp has helped the players understand each other’s game better. “The [six] days [in Chennai] have helped understand each other. “It [camaraderie] has never been like this. This will be a key factor to perform well in the qualifiers,” he said.