India paddlers Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee began their quest for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics berth on winning note as the duo registered comfortable straight-set victories in their respective women’s singles knockout stage-I opening round matches at the World Singles Qualification Tournament in Doha on Sunday. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist Batra dominated Bulgaria’s Maria Yovkova during her 11-5, 11-7, 11-4, 11-0 win. While Mukherjee faced some resistance from her opponent Lisa Lung in the fourth game but it was too late for Italian as Mukherjee wrapped the game as well as the match 11-3, 11-5, 11-7, 12-10 in her favour.
Meanwhile, Achanta Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran suffered defeats against Italian opponents in their respective men’s singles opening matches. While Sathiyan lost to Mihai Bobocica 11-7, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5, seasoned campaigner Sharath also couldn’t manage hold over Niagol Stoyanov as he went down fighting 11-9, 6-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-8, 10-12. Both the Indians had received bye in the opening round.
With four Indians participating in the ongoing qualification event, where a total of nine (four men and five women) places are up for grabs and scheduled from March 14-17. In the men’s category, players are split into three knockout rounds with the winner of each knockout round earning himself a place in the singles event at the Tokyo Olympics. While the losing finalist and semi-finalists from each of the three knockouts, will be drawn into another knockout stage and the winner will secure the remaining one spot.
For the women’s category, entries are split into four knockouts with the winner of each knockout securing a spot in singles at the Tokyo Olympics. However, losing finalist from each of the four knockouts will fight for the remaining single berth as they will participate in the second stage where they will be drawn into a final knockout and the winner will make it to the Olympics.
Later tonight in the women’s second round matches, Batra will take on Uzbekistan’s Rimma Gufranova while Sutirtha will face a challenge from Russian Polina Mikhailova.