Table Tennis Nationals: Sathiyan and Sharath present a picture in contrast

G. Sathiyan and Sharath Kamal present a contrasting picture when it comes to being motivated to win the men’s singles title in the on-going National table tennis championship here.

G. Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal

Like last year, G. Sathiyan (right) and Sharath Kamal are expected to clash in men's singles final of the National table tennis championship in Hyderabad.   -  Rakesh Rao

G. Sathiyan and Sharath Kamal present a contrasting picture when it comes to being motivated to win the men’s singles title in the on-going National table tennis championship here.

Ranked 30th in the world and favourite for a maiden National title this weekend, Sathiyan is keen to put aside the poor showings in the recent World Team Qualification tournament, for the 2020 Olympic Games, and ensure the crown that eluded him last year.

Sharath, ranked 33rd and the most successful men’s National champion, gives the impression of not being motivated enough to win a 10th title. Last year, he was lucky to beat Sathiyan and break Kamlesh Mehta’s record - set in 1995 - of eight titles.

Sathiyan makes no secret of his resolve to win this time. “I value the National title. I know, things did not go my way in Portugal recently but I’m confident of producing my best here.”

In contrast, second seed Sharath says, “Though we did not qualify as a team for the Olympics, overall, I’m happy with the way I played. Here, people expect me to win my 10th singles title but I’m not losing my
sleep over it. I’ll give it a shot but will not be too disappointed if I don’t win.”

From the top-half of the draw, Sathiyan could face some serious challenge Manav Thakkar or former champion A. Amalraj in the semifinal.

For Sharath, a quarterfinal clash with former champion Soumyajit Ghosh, seeded seventh, looks possible. Thereafter, the next rival could be either former winner, left-handed Sanil Shetty or Harmeet Desai.

Among the ladies, where Manika Batra is the only absentee, top seed and former holder Sutirtha Mukherjee was the first to sail into the round of 32.

Meanwhile, not entirely unexpected was the exit of defending champion Archana Kamath. Despite not having recovered fully from a knee-injury suffered recently in Gondomar (Portugal), the fifth seed played and lost 0-4 to Manushree Patil. Archana’s ouster made it easier for fourth seed Ayhika Mukherjee.

Sutirtha can expect eighth seed Reeth Rishya in quarterfinals Ayhika in semifinals.

The lower half has Sreeja Akula and Anusha Kutumbale, seeded two and seven, eying a last-eight berth from fourth quarter. The winner of their clash could face last year’s finalist Krittwika Sinha Roy or Prapti Sen, seeded three and six, in the semifinal.

However, going by the inconsistency in the women section, a series of surprises cannot be ruled out.