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Need to improve fitness, tactics to beat Chinese more often: Manika Batra

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Batra, who plays with long pimples on the backhand, is known for twiddling the racket in the middle of a point but of late she has made a conscious effort to not do that excessively.


Manika Batra could not be more thrilled about bossing the World No.2 from China earlier this week but to beat the top-10 players more often, the Indian table tennis trailblazer knows she needs to do more on the tactical and fitness front.


After becoming the first Indian female to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Smash (top tier events organised by World Table Tennis), the 28-year-old doesn’t want to sit on her laurels and her focus is firmly fixed on the Paris Olympics in July-August.


The Delhi-born player shocked Wang Manyu, the 2021 World Champion in women’s singles and member of the Olympic gold-winning Chinese team at the Tokyo Olympics, before blanking 14th-ranked Nina Mittelham from Germany to make it a special week in Saudi Arabia.


The loss in the quarterfinals came against fifth-ranked Hina Hayata, an opponent Batra has beaten before, but on Thursday the Japanese was better prepared for the challenge.


Speaking to PTI after a successful run in Saudi Arabia, Batra said playing against the best over one week has given her a good idea of where she needs to improve ahead of Paris Olympics.


“So first of all I am really happy. Maza aa gaya usko hara ke (I had a lot of fun beating her),” said a beaming Batra, who had lost badly to Wang Manyu at the Macau World Cup last month.


Specific planning with coach Aman Balgu after that defeat paved the way for a landmark victory.


“After Macau, I sat with my coach, I was really emotional at that time because I told him that something is going wrong and we really have to work on a few things.


“After that, we had a few 10-12 days intense sessions which really helped me in this tournament. Not only against Wang, but against the other two players as well,” said the Indian, who is managed by IOS Sports and Entertainment.


Batra, who plays with long pimples on the backhand, is known for twiddling the racket in the middle of a point but of late she has made a conscious effort to not do that excessively.


The 39th ranked Indian, who will break into the top-25 next week, also feels she needs to be more agile around the table and attack more with her forehand to compete against the mighty Chinese on a consistent basis.


“To be honest, I don’t see any differences (between myself against Chinese) but I have noticed in this tournament that if you want to reach semi-finals and finals, your stamina, your body should be trained like that. The Chinese and Japanese move really fast.


“It shouldn’t happen that after quarter or semi-finals… you are getting tired. So I really learned from this tournament that I have to work on my stamina and agility till the Olympics.


“Game wise, everything was there at this tournament. It’s just mentally you have to be strong and you have to believe that you can do it. Beating World No 2 and World No. 14 is a massive boost.


“I also really liked how my fighting spirit was in this tournament. I was fighting for every ball, every game. Need to work on a few things like my forehand. It was really good in this tournament but need to take it to the next level,” said Batra.

Need to attack more from forehand

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The Indian’s pimpled rubber on the backhand allows her to slow the pace of the point so that she can get herself in an attacking position.


“I have to be more attacking because now I’ve realized that from backhand only, you cannot win. You have to attack from forehand. I have realized this and I am working on this with my coach for few months.


“At this level you have to be stable. The mistakes have to be minimal, whether it is while receiving or serving,” said the first Indian female to win a singles medal at the Asian Cup.

Winning a medal is my target: Batra on Paris Olympics

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Batra, a recipient of India’s highest sporting honour — the Khel Ratna, has lifted the profile of Indian table tennis with her path-breaking performances over the past six years. She has won a mixed doubles medal at the Asian Games alongside Sharath Kamal. The result in Saudi Arabia has fuelled her dream of an Olympic medal.


Of course winning a medal is my target. But I’ll just say that I’ll go match by match and I want to give my 1000th percent this time. Whatever the result is. I don’t want to come back from there with regrets,” said Batra, who will compete in both singles and team event.


She concluded by giving due credit to coach Aman Balgu.


“How he motivates me, how he strategizes against every player before the match. It has made a lot of difference,” she added.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: May 10 2024 | 7:03 PM IST

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