by Kabir Nagpal
The winners of the men’s team and women’s team events reserve places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; undoubtedly, there will be no shortage of drama in the following days. Moreover, that could start on the very first day in the group stages.
How does it work?
But first things first, how do the team events in this magnificent continental championships work?
In each of the men’s team and women’s team events, the top six teams from the 2017 Asian Championships staged in Wuxi will go directly to the main draw, which is in effect also the quarter-finals.
So for the men, the quarter-finals are as follows: China v Singapore, Japan v qualifier, Chinese Taipei v qualifier, Korea Republic v Hong Kong. For the women it is China v DPR Korea, Korea Republic v qualifier, Hong Kong v Chinese Taipei, Japan v qualifier.
The qualification rounds that begin today, are divided into eight groups of three teams each for the men; six groups with three teams in each for the women. The resultant first places in each group progress to the preliminary round, the two teams that emerge following the second preliminary round gain main draw places.
Commencing in Wuxi, all matches across all events men’s team, women’s team, men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles, are best of five games.
However, there is a unique catch. The teams that lose in the first round of the main draw, participate for places five to eight; the semi-finalists plus the teams that finish in fifth and sixth places gaing direct entry to the main draw for the 2021 edition; those concluding matters in seventh and eighth positions must start in the qualification stage.
Watch out for the banana peels!
For there to be upsets and shocks, one has to accept the idea there will be favourites. When it comes to the table tennis behemoth that is the Asian continent, it is extremely difficult to decide who gets that tag. Worse, it is even more difficult to decide who does not get that tag.
Asian table tennis athletes are among the world’s elite, and in the coming week we are about to be treated to the best the sport has to offer. All group qualification matches start today – Sunday 15th September – and will involve teams that one would never imagine ‘qualifying’ for an event in table tennis.
Across the eight groups for men’s team, we have eight favourites to make it to the top of their groups. These top eight teams for men in qualification are DPR Korea, India, Iran, Thailand, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
Standing in their paths as viable ‘dark horses’ are Lebanon, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Nepal, Jordan, Iraq, Philippines and Bahrain.
Similarly, the top six teams for women in qualification are Thailand, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Iran. Given the highly competitive nature of the sport in the continent, teams like Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Nepal are all potential ‘banana-skins’ for our favorites.
At the group stage, the experts have spoken of watching out for the group E match between Malaysia and Jordan, where the likes of Abdyljan Aitahunov will take on Wong Qi Shen in an exciting encounter. For the women’s side of the draw, group D has a very tasty setup with Malaysia’s Karen Lyne up against Dael Emy Rose.
Following on from qualification, we believe the highly contested quarter-finals will have their own bunch of plausible ‘shocks’. The matches to note come from the men’s team draw where Hong Kong and Korea Republic lock horns. Hong Kong’s women’s side will have a similarly eye-ball-glued-to-the-screen game versus Chinese Taipei in what is to be the perfect way to spend your Sunday afternoon!
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