WTT Contender Doha: Sathiyan, Manika Batra hope to start new season in style

The World Table Tennis is replacing the ITTF’s World Tour. Tokyo aspirants will be taking full advantage of the upcoming Doha leg. Watch live!

By Rahul Venkat

There will be no time for Sathiyan Gnanasekaran to bask in the glory of his first national title as the Indian table tennis star turns his focus to the first international event of 2021.

The Indian table tennis contingent is currently in Doha, Qatar for the start of the World Table Tennis (WTT) Middle East Hub. Two tournaments will be held at the Lusail Sports Arena.

The WTT will make its debut this year. It is replacing the International Table Tennis Federation’s World Tour. The matches will now be a best-of-five games affair, with the exception of the singles semi-finals and finals, which will be best-of-seven each.

The first event – the WTT Contender Doha – starts on Sunday, February 28.

New national champion Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and senior pro Achanta Sharath Kamal have been given direct entry to the main draw of the men’s singles. The duo will also play the men’s doubles event together.

Both Sathiyan and Sharath Kamal, finalists at the national championships, have entered the tournament in good form in what will be their first international tournament in a year.

It will be a welcome return, especially for three-time Olympian Sharath Kamal since winning the Oman Open last year – his first title in 10 years.

With Chinese players withdrawing from the WTT Middle East Hub, the title favourites will be world No. 5 Japanese prodigy Harimoto Tomokazu and world No. 6 Hugo Calderano of Brazil, with Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju and Swede Mattias Flick providing stiff competition.

Sathiyan, ranked world No. 37, and Sharath Kamal, ranked world No. 32 will hope to generate some momentum before playing the World Singles Olympic qualifiers and the Asian Olympic qualifiers in the middle of March.

Three other Indians – Harmeet Desai, Anthony Amalraj and Mudit Dani – will take part in the qualifiers of the men’s singles and will look to make it to the main draw.

Youngster Manav Thakker has paired up with Harmeet Desai for the men’s doubles, and the pair could make the main draw if two teams withdraw before the event.

Manika Batra headlines women’s TT team

World No. 63 Manika Batra, who won her second national title last week, will also be seen in action at the WTT Contender in Doha.

Manika will be aiming for a place in the main draw of the women’s singles through the qualifiers route as will compatriots Sutirtha Mukherjee, Archana Kamath, Ayhika Mukherjee, Sreeja Akula, Reeth Tennison and teenager Diya Chitale.

In addition to the singles, there are also three pairs in contention to play the women’s doubles. Manika-Sutirtha could play in the main draw if four teams pull out while Ayhika-Sreeja and Archana-Diya are placed lower in the waiting list.

Manika Batra has also teamed up with Achanta Sharath Kamal for the mixed doubles while Sutirtha Mukherjee will play with Sathiyan Gnanasekaran. Both mixed doubles pairs are yet to be confirmed for the main draw.

Indian table tennis squad for WTT Contender Doha

Men’s Singles

Main Draw – Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Achanta Sharath Kamal

Qualifiers – Harmeet Desai, Anthony Amalraj, Mudit Dani

Men’s Doubles

Main Draw – Sathiyan Gnanasekaran/Achanta Sharath Kamal

Waiting list – Harmeet Desai/Manav Thakker

Women’s Singles

Qualifiers – Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Archana Kamath, Ayhika Mukherjee, Sreeja Akula, Reeth Tennison, Diya Chitale

Women’s Doubles

Waiting list – Manika Batra/Sutirtha Mukherjee, Archana Kamath/Diya Chitale, Ayhika Mukherjee/Sreeja Akula

Mixed Doubles

Qualifiers – Manika Batra/Achanta Sharath Kamal, Sutirtha Mukherjee/Sathiyan Gnanasekaran

WTT Contender Doha schedule

Men’s and Women’s Singles Qualifiers: Sunday, February 28 - Tuesday, March 2

Main Draw: Wednesday, March 3 - Saturday, March 6

Where to watch WTT Contender Doha live in India?

Live streaming of the WTT Contender Doha will be on World Table Tennis’ official YouTube channel.