India paddler Manika Batra qualified for her second successive Olympics last week. Besides the women’s singles category, she also earned a spot in mixed doubles with partner A. Sharath Kamal.
The duo stunned World No. 5 pair of Lee Sang-Su and Jihee Jeon in the Asian Olympic Qualification tournament.
Four days after returning to her base in Pune, Manika shared her thoughts on the challenge ahead.
During the mixed doubles qualification match, did you surprise yourself by blocking Lee’s powerful forehands consistently?
Many were surprised since his speed is way too much but I wasn’t surprised. With the training regime that I’ve been following at India Khelega (academy in Pune) with my coach Sanmay Paranjape and Kiril (Barabanov, her Belarussian sparring partner) along with the fellow players at the academy, it helped me immensely in mixed doubles. I could even return Lee’s top-spins with a top-spin. To be honest, I wasn’t shocked but I was satisfied that I could execute the training regime in a key match.
Do you think mixed doubles is India’s best medal chance at the Olympics?
To be honest, I don’t enter a tournament with an aim to win a medal. I just want to do well for India. If I aim for a specific medal, it puts additional pressure. Our opponents in the qualification match, it was really difficult to tackle their spins and services but I did really well and it helped Sharath attack freely. If I am maintaining my singles training regime well, I can translate it into mixed doubles as well.
What is your objective in Tokyo?
I had a feel of the Olympics in 2016 but now I want to shock at least one higher-ranked singles player in Tokyo. If I can keep my focus, I am sure I will make the country proud. But to be honest, my aim is to win a singles medal at the 2024 Olympics.
Can you talk about the impact of Ultimate Table Tennis?
All the players are missing UTT. It’s brought a lot of change. When you face the same players overseas, you are comfortable and confident. UTT is the only league I play in the world.