New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) Achanta Sharath Kamal failed to seal the fifth qualifying spot at the ongoing Asian Olympic Qualification Table Tennis Tournament in Hong Kong, when he lost to Kim Song Nam of North Korea, 2-4 (12-10, 9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 8-1) Saturday.
Of the seven berths available at the qualifiers, six have already been grabbed with the lone seventh spot now on offer. To win that Sharath will have to first to beat Chinese Taipei player Wu Chi-Chi and then expect to defeat the winner of the match between Jang Song Man of North Korea and Indian Soumyajit Ghosh.
By losing the match to the North Korean, whom he had beaten earlier in the group stages, the Indian made his job at the qualifiers much tougher as he will have to play two more matches and win them to fancy any chance of joining the Indian contingent to London. If he does that, he will be the first Indian to make the Olympics grade for the third successive time.
Sharath, who was playing the fourth match of the day, had mixed luck Saturday.
Before taking on Kim Song Nam, he played a tough match against world No. 1 Ma Long and lost to the top ranked Chinese in straight games of 9-11, 2-11, 4-11, 6-11. Earlier, he had played a gruelling 95-minute match to beat a top-rung North Korean Jang Song Man 4-3 (11-8, 13-11, 9-11, 7-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-7).
Sharath started by winning the first game against Nam, supposedly the weakest among North Korean contenders here, but lost the next two games before regrouping himself. But then Nam was up to the task as he took the next two games to seal his Olympics place.
A dejected Sharath rued on the missed opportunities in earlier rounds. "Going into the match I was confident, but Nam played really well. It was sort of a revenge match for him," he said.
According to TTFI secretary-general, Dhanraj Choudhary, all is not lost for India. "We have the option of using the South Asian regional quota tie between Sharath and Ghosh and whoever wins will go to London," he said.
Sharath can still hope for a hat-trick of Games appearance by either clinching the last qualifying chance or take the South Asian regional quota route to reach London.
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