Paddlers Sharath-Manika pair to face third seeds in opener

Tokyo, July 22:

India paddlers were on Wednesday handed tough draws at the Tokyo Olympics with the mixed doubles pairing of Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra pitted against third seeds Lin Yun-ju and Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei on Saturday.

Batra, ranked 62, though got an easy women’s singles first round where she will face Great Britain’s Ho Tin-Tin, ranked 32 places below the Indian.

Should she win the opening round, Manika will lock horns with Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska, world no 36, in the next round followed by Sofia Polcanova of Austria, who is ranked 17, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Sharath and Manika had sealed the Olympics berth in mixed doubles after beating world number eight Korean Sang-Su Lee and Jihee Jneon in the final of Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in March.

Before leaving for Tokyo, the duo could practice only for three days in the national camp before Manika returned to her training base in Pune.

The duo that won a bronze in 2018 Asian Games will not have it easy against the Taipei pair, a left-right combination. The left-handed Lin, ranked No. 6 in the world, has speed and potent forehand while Cheng, ranked No. 8, brings in a lot of experience and variety.

The Indian pair needs to win three matches to be in medal contention.

In the men’s draw, Sharath and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran seeded 20th and 26th respectively, received first round byes. Their opponents for the second round will depend on the winners from first round matches.

However, the going will not be easy for the duo as Sharath is slated to meet Rio Olympics champion China’s Ma Long, seeded second, in the third round should the Indian win his second round match.

The other female singles paddler in the fray, Sutirtha Mukherjee will take on Linda Bergstrom of Sweden in the first round.

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