Monday, 30th October 2017

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Forehand Manika Batra’s foremost concern

Manika now trains in Pune with new practice partner Sanmay Paranjape

By Madhumita Ganguly in Calcutta
  • Published 12.08.19, 3:07 AM
  • Updated 12.08.19, 3:07 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Speaking on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Manika Batra said qualification for the Games is naturally extremely tough. (Wikimedia Commons)

Manika Batra, India’s No. 1 woman paddler, has several firsts to her credit. She reached a career-high world rank of 47 in January this year, is the first woman from the country to break into the top-50. She is also the first Indian woman to win a singles gold at the Commonwealth Games.

The poster girl of Indian table tennis has just finished playing in this edition’s Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT), which got over on Sunday and was won by Sharath Kamal-led Chennai Lions.

Manika now trains in Pune with new practice partner Sanmay Paranjape. She wanted to add that X factor to her game and hence her shift from childhood coach Sandeep Gupta’s academy in New Delhi, which was, by all means, a big professional decision on her part.

Were there any specific areas where she was looking for a change? “Yes, my forehand,” Manika said. “I am trying to change my game because internationally the players are studying my game. Everyone used to play on my forehand because they knew that it wasn’t my strong point.

“So I have been focusing on my forehand. I now turn and switch and finish from the forehand... yes, it has definitely improved. I have also been working on my rallies.”

Speaking on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Manika said qualification for the Games is naturally extremely tough. Though she is preparing to the best of her ability, Manika has decided not to put undue pressure on herself. She will go all out for an Olympics berth, yes, but she already has her eyes on the 2024 Olympics singles medal.

However, she feels that she and Sharath Kamal have a fairly good chance in the mixed doubles. The duo have clinched bronze in mixed doubles, both at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the Jakarta Asian Games. The ace paddler feels if they practice more, a medal would be an achievable target.

“Sharath and I have a very good understanding when we play together. But practice is vital so we have decided to train for mixed doubles before the Asian Championship and the Grand Finals,” she said.

Manika was playing for the RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata in the UTT and said, “I’m definitely upset that we weren’t able to qualify for the knock-out stage of season 3.

“We had planned extensively before each game. We banked on Matilda (Ekholm) to create big wins for us, which she did. However, we were a tad unlucky even on days when the team brought its A-game.

“The Mavericks were a great team and we look back at all the time we spent preparing, training and playing with a lot of fondness. We learnt a lot from our mistakes which we will incorporate in our future games and tournaments.”

Her idol? Sachin Tendulkar, from whom Manika draws inspiration. “When I met him, he told me how to handle pressure. He told me: ‘When so many people are cheering for you, there will be pressure but you should be positive and grateful that they are cheering for you. You should be happy.’”

Recently, Dejan Papic has been appointed the national table tennis coach. “Papic will be a good coach for us,” said Manika.

Since the Asian Games, last year, the Indian paddlers have been without the services of a coach and Manika feels the appointment of Papic will help in the doubles and team events.