Hard work, courage and passion

Table tennis in India has a big reach and is not limited to the success of the only senior tour where Manika Batra, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Sharath Kamal and Harmeet Desai just stomp. The last outing at the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships in Houston turned out to be a pioneer in many ways, as the medals were only missed by a mustache. In fact, giving the senior squad some tough competition is India’s youth table tennis scene which is more vibrant and promising than ever and is led by a group of young people who are ready to take on the world, a match. both like Suhana Saini, Yashashwini Ghorpade, Diya Chitale, Payas Jain and Swastika Ghosh, to name a few.

Suhana Saini, all 15 years old, has made waves throughout the world table tennis youth circuit with her brilliance on the table. Speaking exclusively to The Bridge, the young table tennis sensation has big dreams to nurture and channels a great passion for the game and an unfathomable thirst to conquer and win more medals.

The rain of medals brought by Suhana Saini


Suhana after her gold medal in Szombathely (Source: Suhana Saini)

For Suhana, 2021 has been a brilliant year – she has traveled all over the place and climbed to the top of the rankings to rank as World No. 3 Under-15, World No. 13 Under-17 and also world number under 17. 21 in U-19. On her way to this feat, she also won gold medals in the U-15 category at the 2021 WTT Youth Contenders in Otocec, Tunis, Muscat, Senec, Szombathely, thus firmly consolidating her position as a person to watch. for the U-15 circuit.

“The last few months have been a roller coaster with so many tournaments … and the fact that I have won a lot of them shows that the training I have had shows its results on the table. Of course every game is like a test – either you are good at it or you are learning, that is, you give the wrong answer to the question you already knew, “said very confident Suhana Saini in a conversation with The Bridge.

Introduced to table tennis by her parents who had decided that their daughter would adopt the sport, given their contagious love for it, Suhana made their dream come true, fueled by her own love for the game. At just 9 years old, Suhana was already on the world tour, winning gold at the US Open and she hasn’t looked back since then.

“Because I won, by the grace of God I was also able to gain confidence and improve in every game I play. I played against Europeans and Asians with different styles of play – both have helped me improve the game in different ways, ”reflected the youngster ahead of the upcoming World Youth Table Tennis Championships.

Taking many tricks of the trade and perfecting them, Suhana is a fast learner, impresses with her laid back attitude off the pitch and dominant strength on the table. “There are a lot of things to improve – especially the Junior World Championships which will be held in Portugal. These are my first junior championships, so I want to show my best game because it is my last U-15 tournament”, a Suhana said hopefully, the hope in her voice was as clear as the day after she returned from a grueling workout.

In retrospect, the European leg of the WTT Youth tour brought enormous visibility to Suhana and co. who made the most of it, taking on the best in the world and learning to stay fearless at all times. “My best game was against world No.2 Voronina Vlada from Russia. I really didn’t come into the game with the idea of ​​beating her, but maybe somewhere I knew I could do it and play my best – it really gave me confidence after winning, Suhana recalled, giving herself a pat on the back for the wonderful race so far.

Having found success from a young age, Suhana shows a different maturity when it comes to dealing with it. A multiple-time national champion, Suhana doesn’t let success get to her head and remains steadfast on the goal, no matter how big of a feat she accomplishes. “I won the Under-19s and Under-17s together. You have to keep your feet on the ground and work even harder because every player in the country is looking to beat you. You literally have to do a lot more to stay in. summit, ”said the daughter of Rohtak.

For now, Suhana’s attention is focused on Portugal and she seems eager to clinch a medal there. “My short term goal is to get the medal in my category at the World Junior Championships,” said Suhana, conscious and ready for the competition that awaits her there.

Age doesn’t matter, hard work does

For a girl who is only 15 years old, Suhana is no ordinary teenager, she has big dreams and she is not the type to be confused by certain conditioned thoughts. “My plan is to get the place in the Indian Senior Women’s team. I know it’s difficult because I’m only 15. But I don’t think age really matters, it’s work. hard work that counts. According to my coach’s plan, I was likely to play in the 2022 Youth Olympic Games but as has been postponed, I really want to participate in the 2024 and 2028 Paris Olympics, I’m in it “, Suhana told The Bridge, her voice emphatic and hopeful and tinged with excitement for the future to come.

And why wouldn’t she want to be a part of the big girl group as well, given how much she was inspired by Manika Batra and Archana Kamath.

“The state of mind of the seniors plays a very big role in inspiring us. All of them – Manav Thakkar, Manika Di, Sathiyan Bhaiyya, Sharath Bhaiyya, Archana Kamath – are all very daring players and they are also very strong,” said Suhana said, a little in awe of their accomplishments as well.

Suhana Saini with Diya, Yashashwini, Svastika and Isa Cok and Hana Goda (Source: Suhana Saini)

However, the rise of youth table tennis has been remarkable and it was Suhana, Yashashwini, Diya, Payas and Swastika who took the lead. “Now SAI, Khelo India and other companies are sponsoring us. I am supported by Lakshya Sports – they send us overseas to participate in WTT tournaments and train in different clubs. did not tour enough but now SAI gives us the importance and endorses so many WTT Youth tournaments which explain the rise of table tennis for young people in India ”, explained Suhana, praising her paddling friends, Yashashwini or Yashu, as she calls it, Swastika and Payas.

This young squad of players boast a very fearless style of table tennis and are ready to take on new challenges, learning along the way. Suhana praises Yashu and mentions how afraid everyone is playing against the World No.4 Under-17 player because of the way she uses the rubber on her bat. For Payas, who is the world number 2 under-17, Suhana remains just as excited, especially because he just so happens to be her cousin and she exclaimed: “Every time Payas wins , I feel like I won, it’s so special! Overall none of us have jealousy and we are all very good friends. I wish us good luck for the future and I hope we can go to the Youth Olympic Games soon. “

The cataclysmic role of senior paddlers and proper supervision


Suhana with her trainer, R. Rajesh (Source: Suhana Saini)

Behind the success of youth table tennis, however, there are also other players who contribute to the success of this young generation of players. The key area in which Indian table tennis has changed is in its styles of training – a lot of changes and developments have taken place, all of which help to form well-rounded players. “Previously there were very few coaches in India who practiced training as a full-time profession. If you see now in a city there are so many academies and the competition is more so the bottom line is My own coach, MR Rajesh, a renowned national player who has played in the Spanish league for many years, has helped me so much … so many former international players have also started to coach, ”Suhana pointed out. .

With these new coaching techniques and the examples given by senior paddlers – Manika Batra, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Sharath Kamal, young people are not hesitant and uncertain about their “formidable” opponents from China, Japan and some European countries.

“The Chinese are strong and hard to beat, but they’re not a threat. It’s like a challenge. I’ve beaten Chinese players a few times – they’re very quick and very strong mentally,” Suhana casually says. but with confidence. “Before, we didn’t pay enough attention to physical fitness, but now almost every academy has a fitness trainer, physiotherapist and mental trainer. A player has to be very strong mentally,” says Suhana.

Suhana with her favorite Indian paddler – Sharath Kamal (Source: Suhana Saini)

“My role models are Sharath Bhaiyya and Manika Didi and also Sathiyan Bhaiyya. Their looks and that confidence boost me. International players talk about them. When I see them playing in the national rankings, I learn a lot from them. Sharath Bhaiyya , if he’s up against a junior, never treat a junior at the table any different. His dominance at the table is inspiring, “said Suhana, openly fan of the legendary table tennis player.

With the Youth Table Tennis World Championships fast approaching in Portugal, it’s time again for Suhana and co., Who remain hungry and eager to win. Only medals, preferably gold, can satisfy this indomitable hunger as Indian table tennis grows more and more among both seniors and young people.


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