G Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal confirm Tokyo 2020 berths

G Sathiyan is set for his maiden Games, while it will be a fourth Olympics appearance for Sharath Kamal. The two sealed their places at the Asian qualifiers in Doha.

By Naveen Peter
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Indian table tennis stars Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran will compete in the men’s singles event of the Tokyo Olympics later this year.

This after the Indian duo secured their place for the Summer Games at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha, Qatar on Thursday.

The Asian qualifiers had six Olympic berths up for grabs in the men’s singles events. The spots for Tokyo were to be allotted to the five group winners and the highest-ranked second-placed player.

While G Sathiyan topped the South Asia group with two wins in as many matches, Sharath Kamal ended as the top-ranked second-placed player, handing him the sixth slot for Tokyo 2020.

While this will be a maiden Olympics for G Sathiyan, it will be a fourth one for veteran Sharath Kamal.

Facing each other in their opening group encounter at the Lusail Sports Arena, it was G Sathiyan who began brightly against his much-experienced opponent.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist looked in command, winning the opening two games, but soon found himself struggling as Sharath Kamal rallied to draw parity and then eke ahead with a close 12-10 win in the fifth.

G Sathiyan took the sixth game 11-9 to force a decider. Though he continued his form in the seventh and led 8-3 at one stage, the match saw a final twist when Sharath Kamal staged another comeback to draw level at 8-8.

But G Sathiyan didn’t let that affect his rhythm and closed the tie 11-9, 15-13, 5-11, 7-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-8 to take a decisive step towards Tokyo 2020.

The loss, however, didn’t bother Sharath Kamal much as a 4-0 win over Pakistan Rameez Muhammad in his second match. He won 11-4, 11-1, 11-5, 11-4 to seal second place in the group and secure his pathway to Tokyo 2020.

“It was a good match against Sathiyan but I made some errors and he capitalised on them to win the match,” Sharath said. “I was a bit nervous before playing against Rameez as I had never faced him before. 

“But after the first few games I was confident that my strategy was working and I executed it well to maintain control,” said the 38-year-old Indian.

G Sathiyan, meanwhile, beat Muhammad Rameez in his final match to top the South Asia group and book his place at the Tokyo Games.