Manika Batra from Delhi and G Sathiyan from Chennai on making it into the ITTF World Top 10: We inspire each other | off the field
Manika Batra shares that she and G Sathiyan complement and motivate each other on the table
“A SINGLE DIGIT RANKING AFTER JUST 8 MONTHS OF PLAYING TOGETHER IS INCREDIBLE”
“It was a great run, winning back-to-back medals,” Sathiyan tells us, as he ticks off their recent victories – “Our second stint as mixed doubles partners started after the Olympics. Since then, we have won gold at WTT Contender in Budapest, followed by bronze at WTT Contender Tunis and now silver at WTT Contender Doha. We also played very well at the World Championships and the Grand Smash. In Doha it was even more special because we beat the world number 4 duo from Hong Kong, who are seasoned, two-time World Championship medallists, and have been playing together for a very long time.The victory in the semi-final was important.
While admitting breaking into the Top 10 was always the plan, Sathiyan says: ‘But we exceeded our expectations’
While admitting that breaking into the Top 10 has always been the plan, Sathiyan says, “But we exceeded our expectations. We started playing together last August. In just eight months, we’ve already achieved a single-digit ranking. It’s an incredible sign of how we’ve progressed.
Manika – who also reached fourth place in the latest ITTF Women’s Doubles World Ranking, along with partner Archana Kamath – says: “My goal is to focus on my game, not the rankings”
Manika – who also secured fourth place in the latest ITTF Women’s Doubles World Ranking, along with partner Archana Kamath – says: “My goal is to focus on my game, not the ranking. Of course, I’m happy when my ranking improves, but if I only focus on that and what people say, I can’t perform well. At the same time, expectation badti hain toh achcha lagta hai, ki log bhi TT dekh rahe hain and expect kar rahe hain humse. On the table, the pressure is there, but if you are focused on your game, you feel it slipping out of your mind.
“OUR UNDERSTANDING ON THE PITCH HAS BEEN INCREDIBLE”
The secret to their successful relationship, Manika says, is that “we support each other.” “We complement each other on the table. Between matches, we continue to motivate each other, which is important for a pair of doubles.
Sathiyan adds: “The understanding between me and Manika on the pitch has been amazing. We shared a lot of ideas and we both have phenomenal speed on the pitch. It’s an advantage. Being very skilled in the field helps us do a lot of variations. His forehand topspin, my counter-attack, the placements we make and the speed on the table are strengths on the court that have surprised opponents. We’ve also been good at targeting the opponent’s weak areas.
“WE HAVE A GREAT CHANCE OF WINNING GOLD AT COMMONWEALTH‘
A more ambitious goal awaits the duo: the Paris 2024 Olympics. Sathiyan says, “Our big goal is to break into the Top 4 before the Olympics, so we get a good draw and have a great chance of winning medals. We also work with other strong pairs, playing against them, strategizing and improving our game.”
The other two big events scheduled for them this year are the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games – both crucial, although Sathiyan is more than optimistic about their chances. “Last time at the Commonwealth Games, in our first mixed doubles relay, we won a bronze medal without much practice. This time we would like to go further. I think we have a great chance of winning the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. There are good pairs from Singapore and England, so it’s going to be tough. On the other hand, the Asian Games will be like mini Olympics, because the 7 best pairs, apart from a French pair, are all Asian. When it comes to table tennis, winning a medal at the Asian Games is just as good as winning a medal at the Olympics,” he explains.
FROM MEDITATION TO FOOT WORK: THE WORKOUT WAITING FOR YOU
Speaking about the upcoming roadmap in terms of training, Sathiyan says: “One area we will be working on is footwork coordination. In fact, when she was down in Chennai, we worked on that, it really helped. Footwork coordination is very critical when playing in pairs. Serving and receiving are other things we are working on. If we can succeed, it will definitely make a big difference in the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the Paris Olympics. »
G Sathiyan on his deal with Manika on the pitch
For Manika, there is also a lot of mental preparation. She says, “Every time I finish my tournament, I write about things I should focus on in my diary. I also focus on my mental training and meditate. For the Commonwealth Games, the last time I won (she won a gold medal in the women’s singles table tennis final at the Commonwealth Games in 2018), so it sticks in your mind and can add pressure. But I will go there as a new kid and I will do my best to win a medal there.
Manika on her agreement with G Sathiyan on the table
“I DIARYED AND COOKED A LITTLE DURING LOCKDOWN”
For Manika, confinement was a time to focus on training and the upcoming Olympics. “I did some cooking and meditating to stay mentally sharp,” she adds. “I knew that when the lockdown ended we would have tournaments, so I prepared for those. I felt stronger than before and was thinking about the 2024 Olympics. I started writing more about my goal, how my training should be and how I should achieve it.
“LOCKING HAS MADE ME A BETTER PLAYER”
Sathiyan believes the lockdown has helped him become a better player in several ways. “Yoga and meditation, which I started practicing just before the pandemic, has become a routine for me now. It has made me much calmer and more focused. Also, we would always be in competition mode earlier. Without a lot of them, I could think about my own game. I learned to value taking care of my body and not overdoing it to the point of putting my health at risk.