New Delhi: Sreeja Akula, who made a name for herself with sterling performances in last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, made several heads turn when she beat World No. 21 Chen Szu-Yu of Chinese Taipei 4-3 (11-2, 5-11, 2-11, 5-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-8) in the Round of the Asian WTTC Continental Stage 2023 tournament at the Lusail Sports Complex 16 in Doha to qualify for the singles events of the Durban World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) finals from May 20.
The World No.72 seemed down and out when she trailed 1-3 against the World No. 21, but the Indian’s confidence soared high after winning the fifth game 13-11. It was a tricky game, and the Hyderabadi paddler fought intensely to take a big step before shutting out her Taipei opponent in the last two games.
Alongside, she will have the company of the top-ranked Indian in the world at 35, Manika Batra, who thumped Zhu Chengzhu of Hong Kong 13-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8 in the pre-quarters to seal her spot.
Later in the day, World No. 47 A. Sharath Kamal defeated Ahmadian Amin of Iran 13-11, 11-3, 10-12, 11-7, 11-6 to book his place in the WTTC.
In addition, Manika and G. Sathiyan also sealed their place in the mixed doubles events of the WTTC. The Indian duo, ranked No. 5 in the world, beat Hiroto Shinozuka and Miyuu of Japan 11-9, 12-10, 11-7, 5-11, 11-7 in the pre-quarters.
Though Sathiyan failed to make the grade in Doha, he can still qualify in singles based on his world ranking. However, the World No. 39 Indian will have to wait for the announcement.
Though Reeth Rishya and Sreeja, who beat the Singapore pair of Goi Rui Xuan and Wong Xin Ru 11-6, 12-10, 13-11, 11-7 to grab one of the last four slots, have qualified in the women’s doubles, at least Retth’s place is doubtful as she has failed to seal a singles spot. Moreover, Manika and Archana have a better chance of making the cut based on their world rankings.
Sathiyan and Sharath also qualified when they beat Qatar’s Mohammed Abdulwahab/Khalil Al-Mohannandi 11-5, 11-0, 11-9, 11-8 in the men’s doubles positions matches. The Indian duo played a marathon against the top Chinese pair of Ma Long and Yuan Licen before squandering a 3-1 lead to lose 11-4, 12-10, 5-11, 15-13, 7-11, 2-11, 5-11 on Monday night in the Round of 16. However, the Indians sealed their qualification spot on Tuesday.
As per the format, the Asian WTTC Continental Stage 2023 tournament offers 25 slots in men’s singles, 28 in women’s singles, 14 berths in men’s doubles, 12 in women’s doubles, and eight in mixed doubles. However, only four men and women entries per country are allowed in the WTTC finals.
In the singles, players that make it to the Round of 16 will qualify directly, while the remaining slots via the positions’ knockout matches. However, in doubles, only those who reach the quarterfinals qualify, with the rest through other knockout rounds.