India set to win first-ever medal in Asiad

India men's team stunned Japan in quarterfinals to assure the country its first-ever medal in table tennis at the Asian Games on Monday. DH FILE PHOTO

The Indian men’s team did almost the unthinkable by beating fancied Japan 3-1 in the quarterfinals to assure the country its first-ever medal in table tennis in the history of the Asian Games here on Monday.

For the Indians, it did not matter if Japan’s top three players were missing from the competition.

“At the end of the day, it is an Asian Games medal. I never dreamt of it,” veteran Achanta Sharath Kamal, who has been India’s top table tennis player for close to 15 years, said.

Until Monday night, India did not have a single medal in the sport which was introduced in the Games program in 1958. The likes of China (61 gold), Japan (20) and South Korea (10) swept the medals for a long time.

World number 33, Sharath, blanked world number 19 Kenta Matsudaira 11-8, 12-10, 11-8 in the only singles he needed to play on Monday.

Rising star G Sathiyan, ranked 39, delivered on the big stage, winning both his singles matches against 28th ranked Jin Ueda and Matsudaira.

Sathiyan hammered Ueda in straight games and took four games to get the better of Matsudaira. “We had come close to beating Japan in the Asian Championships last year. So it is not as if it was completely unexpected. We were on the right track. We have a solid team now,” said multiple time CWG gold medallist Sharath.

Winning the quarterfinals in the night against a strong opponent like Japan was a mighty feat, considering the team had played two pool matches against Macau and Vietnam earlier.

The men had lost to Chinese Taipei 2-3 on Sunday to finish second in the group.

Earlier, in the women’s team event, India lost to Hong Kong 1-3 in the quarterfinals.

The Indian women were too reliant on Manika Batra, who stunned world number 20 Lee Ho Ching in the opening singles. The 57th ranked Indian beat Ching 11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 11-6.

However, her team-mates could not come up with special performances. Ayhika Mukherjee stretched world number 13 Doo Hoi Kem before going down 14-12, 4-11, 10-12, 8-11 in the second singles.

Mouma Das also took Soo Wai Yam Minnie to the full distance of five games but lost 6-11, 13-11, 11-8, 3-11, 5-11.

Doo and Manika played the fourth rubber but the Hong Kong player was too good for India’s best female paddler, winning 11-8, 11-8, 13-11 to seal the tie for her side. 

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India set to win first-ever medal in Asiad

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