The late arrival of the Petroleum team, comprising members of the Indian team, and the obvious compulsion of the Table Tennis Federation of India to accommodate it, sent the pre-quarterfinal schedule for a toss in the National table tennis championship in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
With the competition already a day-and-a-half old, the squad consisting of G. Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty and Manav Thakkar were required to play league matches virtually in succession against Punjab, Uttarakhand and Assam.
The defending champion won all the matches with identical 3-0 margins. Thereafter, the pre-quarterfinals could not be started immediately since the members of the Petroleum team needed some time to rest and recover.
This led to a delay of over 90 minutes before the pre-quarterfinal pairings could be made. Petroleum drew Rajasthan, second seed Gujarat got ready to play TTTA (from Tamil Nadu), third seed Delhi prepared for Assam and host Telangana, which occupied the spot meant for fourth seed Uttar Pradesh, ran into Maharashtra ‘B’.
The other pairings were, Mizoram-Maharashtra ‘A’, Railways-TNTTA, Kerala-Bengal ‘A’ and Haryana-UP.
The duo of Sathiyan and Sharath won the outings against Assam in straight sets.
Sathiyan pointed to the grainy tables that assisted the spinning ball to gain move revolutions, thereby making those who play more regularly on the World Tour to make the necessary adjustments.
“Here, the ball comes much faster and challenges a player more. So it is always good to be part of the National championship which really tests your skills in different ways. For me, playing in the Nationals means a lot and I want to win it,” said Sathiyan who narrowly lost last year’s final to Sharath and missed a golden opportunity to win his maiden National title.
Sharath, in line for a 10th National title, was careful not to sound too upbeat. “You know, every year it gets tougher and I need to take one match at a time and see how my body is holding. But I am quite happy with the way I am playing. Need to rest well ahead of the singles and then take it as it comes.”
In the women’s section, where last year’s singles runner-up Krittwika Sinha Roy lost to Chennai-girl Selenadeepthi Selvakumar in five games, in Petroleum’s 3-1 win over TTTA, seven of the eight seeds duly made it to the round of 16.
Seventh seed Gujarat was ousted after finishing third Group ‘G’ behind Haryana and Assam.
The pre-quarterfinal line was, Bengal ‘A’- TNTTA, Petroleum-Delhi, Maharashtra ‘B’-UP, Maharashtra ‘A’-Kerala, Telangana-TTTA, Karnataka-Rajasthan, Haryana-Bengal ‘B’ and Railways-Assam.
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