Manika Batra eyeing Tokyo berth

Today News Online Service

Panchkula, February 23

Nearly a year-long break from competition might be detrimental for any sportsperson, and Manika Batra is no exception. But India’s top women’s table tennis player remains determined to regain her touch as she gears up for the upcoming world and Asian Olympics qualifications in Doha. A win at the recently concluded 82nd Senior National Championships only bolstered her resolve.

Sathiyan crowned national champion

  • Panchkula: World No. 37 G Sathiyan won the 82nd National Table Tennis Championship after beating favourite Sharath Kamal 11-6 11-7 10-12 7-11 11-8 11-8 in the final.

Competing against some of the country’s best paddlers after the pandemic-induced break, the rustiness in Manika’s game was quite evident as she was stretched to the limit first by Archana Kamath in the quarterfinals and then in the final by Reeth Rishya. However, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist stayed calm to win her second national title.

“I am happy that I won the tournament because for a long time it was just training, training and training,” Manika said. “I think, the preparation I had done was visible … this is just the beginning and there are many tournaments to follow… back-to-back four tournaments, so I have to prepare well,” Manika said as she elaborated on the two WTT events and the world and Asian qualifying tournaments that will be held in Doha between February 28 and March 20.

With just a few days left for her new assignment, Manika wants to iron out the flaws in her game and be ready for the tough road ahead. “No player is satisfied. I have to work on a lot of things… the mistakes I committed in this tournament, I will work on that and will try not to repeat them in Doha,” she said.

Sparring partner

Manika intends to sweat it out against her Belarussian sparring partner Kiryl Barabanov under the watchful eyes of her coach Sanmay Paranjape before flying to Doha. Barabanov, who joined Manika in September last year, has helped the world No. 63 gain more control over her game. “He has really helped me in improving my game. Since he can hit the ball harder it has enabled me to defend more positively, particularly off the back hand, and also respond in a much effective way,” she said.

So what was Manika doing during the lockdown? “I was chilling,” she said with a laugh. “No, of course I was working hard. When things improved a bit and we got the permission to play I worked on my game. And when we were not allowed to play, I was working on my physical fitness,” she added.

No pressure

The world No. 63 also informed that she was practising meditation and yoga to keep herself focussed. “I am always calm, it’s my nature. But yes, I do meditation, I do yoga, that helps,” she said.

Manika said she was optimistic about her own chances of making it to the Olympics.

“I will give my best for my country. When you go there you have only one thing in your mind and that is your country and I just want go there and play. I won’t take any undue pressure for getting a medal. When I am at the table, it should be me and the ball,” she said.

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