Indian paddler Manika Batra ended the 2018 season with many medals and awards in her bag but a reality check struck her as she dropped out of the top-50 rankings in 2019 after a string of inconsistent performances. Keeping Olympics qualification in mind, Manika is eyeing a return to the top-50.
The year 2018 was a season of many firsts for Indian paddler Manika Batra. Her breakthrough accomplishments included becoming India’s first-ever Commonwealth Games women’s singles gold medallist in addition to her record haul of four medals at Gold Coast besides a bronze medal in the mixed doubles event at the Jakarta Asian Games. She catapulted herself to celebrity status in table tennis and soon became a household name in the country with youngsters looking up to her to become successful in the sport.
However, a reality check was in place for her as after beginning 2019 strongly by reaching the pre-quarterfinals of the Hungarian Open, which provided Manika with her career-best ranking of world No. 47, a string of inconsistent performances pegged back the Delhi girl. Parting ways with her childhood coach Sandeep Gupta at the end of 2018 was also sighted as one of the reasons behind her poor show.
Doubts were raised on her ability to win more accolades for the country after she was defeated by young Archana Kamath in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) league. Her ranking rapidly dropped to 76th in the world in August and a sense of uneasiness gripped her, forcing her to make changes and shift her training base to Pune. She is currently training there with her sparring partner Sanmay Paranjape and Anukram Jain.
Despite the ouster of national coach Massimo Constantini, who won the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) star coach award last year, Manika believes that she is making rapid improvements in the build-up to qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games.
“In a player’s life, nothing is fixed — sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Being consistent is very tough but recently I have played pretty well at the German and Swedish Open,” Manika told TOI in Jaipur on Tuesday.
“My training is going really well in Pune, my new centre, and I am really happy there. Everything happens at a certain time. It’s difficult to just enter any tournament and win, many factors lead you to success. I believe good times are just round the corner. I became the first Indian to defeat a Chinese paddler recently. So I am optimistic about my future,” she added.
A combination of both world and national rankings will award entry into the table-tennis Olympic qualifiers in April for men’s and women’s singles. The team qualifiers will take place in January 2020.
“I defeated World No. 43 from Slovakia and one Hungarian player 4-0, who had defeated me after the Gold Coast Games. I felt like things have improved in the last couple of months. Keeping in mind, marquee events like the German and Hungarian Open to be staged next year, I would dedicate my time fully to training as good results will ensure a rise in rankings,” said the first-ever ITTF Breakthrough Star Award winner from India.
Ranked 18th in the mixed doubles Olympic ranking alongside partner Achanta Sharath Kamal, Manika believes the duo has a good chance of clinching a medal in Tokyo. The pair claimed bronze medals in both the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games mixed doubles event last year.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi