Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Table tennis | Need to improve fitness and tactics to beat the Chinese, says Manika Batra

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Gameplan: Manika’s use of pimpled rubber on the backhand allows her to slow the pace of the point but she has realised that she cannot win only like that and needs to with her the forehand. 
| Photo Credit: PTI

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.

Manika 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.

“I am really happy. 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 Manika.

Manika, 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.

“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 semifinals 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 semifinals… 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 Manika.

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 realised that from backhand only, you cannot win. You have to attack from forehand. I have realised 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,” she said.

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,” added Manika.

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