Indians paddlers start Olympic qualifying campaign in style

Doha, May 10: India’s Anthony Amalraj, Achanta Sharath Kamal and Poulomi Ghatak started their Olympic qualifying campaign in style with wins in their first matches at the Table Tennis World Olympic Qualification Championships here Thursday.

Amalraj notched up an important win over world No. 49 Emmanuel Lebesson of France in his group 2 match. The national champion defeated Lebesson 4-1 (11-4, 9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-5) and will run into Vladislav Sorbalo in his next match later Thursday night. Sorbalo lost 2-4 to Taipei’s Wu Chi Chi, a higher ranked player.

Sharath Kamal defeated Slovakian Jan Zibrat 4-2 (6-11, 11-6, 11-6, 5-11, 11-4, 11-6) to take his first step towards making the cut. He, however, faces England’s Andrew Baggaley, who won 4-2 against Kazakh’s Kirill Gerassimenko, in his next match.

It was a mixed luck for the two women players as the No. 225 ranked Poulomi Ghatak played a superb match to defeat world No. 85 Russian Oxana Fedeeva 4-2 (11-7, 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 11-13, 11-5). The win should do her confidence a world of good and she stands a good chance of not only making it to the second stage but also topping group 5. The only hurdle on her way could be the Netherland’s Elena Timina, who is ranked 121.

The only aberration on the opening day was Kumaresan Shamini’s loss to worl No. 93 Gabriala Feher from Serbia. Shamini had her match sewn up, but a strategic timeout when leading at 7-1 in the crucial seventh game dashed her hopes. Shamini eventually lost 3-4 (11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 13-15, 11-9, 11-13, 11-9) making her task further difficult in group 8.

But the day’s highlights were provided by both Amalraj and Ghatak, the former playing an attacking game while the latter employing lot of spins against their opponents.

Amalraj, in particular, didn’t give even a semblance of chance to his French adversary who struggled throughout.

‘That’s my style (attack) and it came good against my higher-ranked opponent,’ said Amalraj, world No. 165. He too has a good chance of topping the group.

Asked about his chances against Taipei’s Wu Chi Chi, Amalraj said he is not thinking about that match immediately.

‘My next opponent is Sobalo and I cannot take him lightly. But my confidence got a real boost after I beat the French,’ he said.

Similarly, Ghatak was happy about her strategy against the Russian.

‘I saw her struggling against spin both while receiving and returning. So I used it a lot and it worked my way,’ said a beaming Ghatak.

Coach Bhawani Mukherjee expressed happiness over the way the three players have begun, but cautioned that they will have to maintain the intensity throughout.

‘They can’t sit back and think about what happened in the morning. With just two group toppers going into second stage, they have to be consistent,’ he said.

IANS