New Delhi: The countdown has already begun as far as the Tokyo Olympics is concerned, the event now less than a year away from its opening ceremony.
While such a countdown often adds to the nerves for a lot of athletes aspiring for a podium finish in the sporting extravaganza, Indian table tennis star Manika Batra isn't one to let the thought of the ticking clock seep into her head and add further pressure.
Batra, who won as many as four medals in the Commonwealth Games 2018 as well as a historic bronze with Sharath Kamal in the Asian Games mixed doubles event, says she's setting her sights on the 2024 Olympics instead.
When asked about India's best chances of winning an Olympic medal in table tennis, Batra responded by saying, "you’re only adding pressure on us!"
"Look we all are working hard, and if we play our best and luck is on our side, we will win. So, we’ll work hard to win a singles medal..."
"I don’t want to take pressure on myself for 2020. I’m aiming for 2024 right now," added Batra in an interaction with reporters after a training session in New Delhi, where the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) is currently taking place.
The appointment of Canada's Dejan Papic as the Indian table tennis coach has become a major talking point in the build-up to India's Olympic campaign. Papic accepted a one-year offer from the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) after a lot of deliberation and suspense over the matter, and his contract is till the end of the Olympics, for now.
Veteran Indian paddler Sharath Kamal has said the Canadian will have to tweak around the current system and not go after a complete overhaul, given the shortage of time in hand. Batra, agreed with Kamal's view, adding that the previous coach Massimo Costantini was someone who understood the Indian players well and that it would take Papic a while to do the same.
"Brett (Clarke) has been good as a coach (interim) so far. Papic, I don’t know when he will come, but his arrival will be good for the team.
"Our previous coach, he was aware of the game and playing style of several Indian players. With the arrival of the new coach, it will be difficult for him (Papic) as well as for us, because it will take him a while to understand our playing style. Not very long, but it will take him some time to settle down (in this system)," she added.
Batra split ways with her childhood coach Sandeep Gupta in March earlier this year, citing the reason of not getting good practice with Gupta around. She has since shifted base to Pune, where she trains with fellow paddler Sanmay Paranjpe, and has expressed happiness over her progress since making that big decision.
"My training is really going good in Pune, and I’m really happy with my training. I have improved my game really. My forehand has improved. I have beaten Chinese and Korean paddlers, so I’m happy with my training, what I’m doing in Pune. It’s going great, and I hope it stays so in the future as well," added Batra.
The third edition of the UTT is underway, albeit with a number of changes to the scheduling of matches as well as format. The tournament this year will be a shortened one, with all the matches taking place in the national capital. The number of matches too have been reduced to five from seven, with a match decided over three games.
The Delhi native expressed happiness over the fact that the matches are taking place in her hometown this year, saying,"first of all I’m happy that all the matches are happening in Delhi, which is my city. Crowd will be there. As far as the reduced number of players is concerned, it’s good for the viewers, who won’t be leaving early after all, and will instead sit and watch."
"While I personally prefer having more players around, the reduced number of players is in a way good for us as well as we’ll get more time," said Batra.
Batra was part of the title-winning Dabang Smashers in the 2018 edition, and is the face of the RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata in this year's edition. RP-SG begin their campaign against the Goa Challengers at the Thyagraj Stadium on Saturday.
Updated Date: Jul 27, 2019 03:28:51 IST