Sharath, Manika seal Olympic berth in mixed doubles by winning Asian Qualification event

Doha, Mar 20 (PTI): India got its best shot at a maiden table tennis medal at the Olympics on Saturday when Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra became the first Indian pairing to qualify for the mega event in Tokyo, beating world no. 8 duo of Sang-Su Lee and Jihee Jeon 4-2 in the final of the Asian Qualification Tournament here.
The 2018 Asian Games bronze medallists staged a remarkable comeback after being two sets down to outwit the top seeded Korean pair 8-11 6-11 11-5 11-6 13-11 11-8 in a thrilling final to seal their Tokyo qualification in mixed doubles. Only the winner of the event qualified for the Games.
The Indian pairing had beaten the Koreans en route to a historic medal in Asian Games before losing to them on the pro tour the following year.
“Manika was unstoppable today. It is very important for her to play with flow so that I am able to play my power game. That is the only way we compliment each other. She was outstanding.
“I never thought we could win the tournament. Now we are three games for winning an Olympic medal. It will be tough but it is our best shot,” Sharath told PTI referring to the 16-pairing draw at the Tokyo Games. Sharath, who has also qualified for the singles event alongside G Sathiyan, has now set sights at reaching at least the mixed doubles quarterfinals at the Games.
“I think if we can reach the quarters, it would be a fantastic result for us at the Games. Anything else from there is a bonus,” said the world number 32.
The unprecedented result in mixed doubles means India will now have five entries in Tokyo (two each in men and women singles besides mixed).
The delayed Tokyo Games will be held from July 23 to August 8 this year. “I was really happy with myself to be able to withstand the attack and services of a player like lee Sang Su and Jion Jihee. Sharath bhaiya capitalised well with his attack to keep the pressure on them .
“I am very happy that along with singles we could even make by beating the Korean and Singapore pairing in the mix,” said Manika.

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