Back and calf issues have forced defending champion Achanta Sharath Kamal to pull out of the men’s singles event of the 84th UTT Inter-State Senior National Table Tennis Championships beginning here on Saturday.
The last-minute pullout because of the recurring back and calf spasms that Sharath has suffered in the past two months have dealt a blow to the organisers and the local spectators.
But his absence would help former national champion G. Sathiyan’s cause as he eyes his second title.
Sharath, a 10-time national champion, said he has to be cautious and continue the rehab programmes devised before the World Championships in Durban in May.
“The Worlds in May last week is my focus, and I want to prepare well for the big event. Most importantly, I don’t want to aggravate the situation. I am going straight to rehab and concentrate just on the Durban Worlds,” he said in a release.
The PSPB paddler indulged in extra stretching before the quarters and semi-finals of the team championships to keep fit. He was in discomfort, but his commitment to the team’s cause kept him going as he competed and won the matches without letting the cat out of the bag.
As for the matches on the fifth day of the championships, the top 16 seeded players in the men’s section and eight in the women’s category will get into action from Saturday when the second stage draw, the knockout, begins.
The women will play three rounds, while the men will play two. With the group topper emerging as the qualifier for the knockout round, there will be a tough fight among the players in 78 groups (women) and 96 in men’s singles, respectively.
Meanwhile, the 16 men and eight women players will have a good day’s rest before the battle for the title and the prize purse of Rs. 16 lakh gets hot.
The top-ranked players in both sections are: Men: G. Sathiyan, Manush Shah, Harmeet Desai, Manav Thakkar, Sanil Shetty, Anirban Ghosh, Sudhanshu Grover, Jeet Chandra, SFR Snehit, Soumyajit Ghosh, Anthony Amalraj, Ronit Bhanja, Payas Jain, Deepit R. Patil, Yashansh Malik and Subh Goel.
Women: Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula, Reeth Rishya, Diya Chitale, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Anusha Kutumbale, Swastika Ghosh and Prapti Sen.