28th Asian Cup Table Tennis 2015 Tough for men paddlers; it’s uphill for women

  |    March 13th, 2015   |   211

Jaipur (N4C Sports)- All eyes will be on Achanta Sharath Kamal and Soumyajit Ghosh to put themselves and India in medal reckoning in the GAC Group 28th Asian Cup Table Tennis 2015, beginning at the SMS Indoor Stadium here tomorrow.

Only Chetan Baboor has anything to show—having silver and bronze medals- as Indian paddlers have never been able to replicate his feat so far.

But the task is easier said than done for Sharath, ranked No. 49 in the world, and Ghosh, ranked at 110, and drawn in strong groups B and C, respectively, particularly in a format where they need two clear wins from their groups to qualify for the second stage.

And even a cursory look at the first stage group draw gives a scary picture as Sharath is drawn against world No. 3 Chinese Fan Zhendong, Taipei’s No. 8 Chuang Chih-Yuan and South Korean Joo Saehyuk, ranked 16 in the world. If this is going to be difficult for Sharath, who finished among the top six in the last edition at Wuhan (China), Ghosh’s opponents in group C is still trickier. The Indian national champion has for company the likes of world No. 5 Japanese Jun Mizutani, Hong Kong’s Peng Tang at No. 13 and Singapore’s Gao Ning, ranked No. 15 in the world.

The format of the Asian Cup allows just two paddlers from each of the first three groups to make inroads into the second stage of the event, which is the knockout, while two other players bow out of the championships on the opening day itself. In other words, both Sharath and Ghosh will have to play exceedingly well to score two victories to remain in contention and live to see another day.

Of course, the Indians have had useful practice and the team in general and Sharath in particular, exuded confidence of a good performance on the home turf. “I had finished sixth the last time and I want to better my previous best. I am in good shape and absolutely fit to reach where I want to,” said Sharath after the team’s practice session in the morning.

But he was wary of the presence of Fan Zhendong and believed a worthy show against him will do a world of good to him. As for the Korean Joo and Taipei’s Chuang, Sharath thinks they are beatable. However, the same is not the case for Ghosh who, despite a good personal form, will have to deal with the highly-rated players. “I will play my attacking game and use the opportunity to hone my skills further,” said a realistic Ghosh.

Now coming to the third Indian, G. Sathiyan who forms part of group D the situation is no different. He is running to two higher-ranked players in Yang Zi of Singapore and Noshad Alamiyan of Iran, besides Yemon’s Ali Omar, who has no world ranking. It means, Sathiyan should beat Ali, but things are going to be tough against the other two as only the group topper moves gets a chance to step into the play-off.

In the play-off qualifiers, the group D topper will be joined by the third finisher from each of group A, B and C who, after a draw of lot, will play a round with the two winners joining the six qualifiers from the top three groups.

The top-ranked Chinese and world No. 2 Xu Xin is sitting pretty atop in group A with Japanese Koki Niwa (No. 12), Korean Kim Minseok (No. 32) and Hong Kong’s Jiang Tianyi (No. 36). Xu’s capability is too well known and the Chinese, without a doubt, should lead the chart in his group. In fact, he is a hot favourite to win the title here barring a hiccup or two from compatriot Fan Zhendon from group B. The 18-year-old is no stranger to India and he first won his world junior singles title at Hyderabad.

As for the Indian women, Poulami Ghatak, who is drawn in group C along with Japanese Kasumi Ishikawa (world No. 5), Seo Hyowon (world No. 10) and Yu Mengyu (world No. 12), it is simply an uphill task. So is the case with Mouma Das, in group D, where she has to encounter Iranian Neda Shahsavari Neda, the only other paddler with no world ranking like Mouma, and Qatar’s Aia Mohamed (world No. 543) and Thailand’s Nanthana Komwong (world No. 101). In fact, Mouma may be able to win a match in her group but for Poulami it will be nothing short of a monumental effort.

In fact, the title chase in the women’s singles could be between Chinese and world No. 3 Liu Shiwen and compatriot Zhu Yuling, ranked world No. 6, while the rest in fray, including Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, ranked fourth in the world, should be fighting for third and other places. But Feng’s ability cannot be brushed aside as the Singapore paddler, on her day, can topple the best in business.

Group A: Xu Xin (Chn), Koki Niwa (Jpn), Kim Min Seok (Kor) and Jiang Tianyi (Hkg),

Group B: Fan Zhendong (Chn), Chuang Chih-Yuan (Tpe), Joo Sae Hyuk (Kor) and Sharath Kamal (Ind).

Group C: Jun Mizutani (Jpn), Tang Peng (Hkg), Gao Ning (Sin) and
Soumyajit Ghosh (Ind).

Group D: Noshad Alamiyan (Iri), Yang Zi (Sin), G. Sathiyan (Ind) and Ali Omar (Yem).

Group A: Liu Shiwen (Chn), Ai Fukuhara (Jpn), Yang Haeun (Kor) and Doo Hoi Kem (Hkg).

Group B: Feng Tianwei (Sin), Zhu Yuling (Chn), Lee Ho Ching (Hkg) and Cheng I-Ching (Tpe).

Group C: Kasumi Ishikawa (Jpn), Seo Hyo Won (Kor), Yu Mengyu (Sin) and Poulomi Ghatak (Ind).

Group D: Nanthana Komwong (Tha), Aia Mohamed (Qat), Neda Shahsavari (Iri) and Mouma Das (Ind).