Manika Batra is full of beans following her historic bronze medal with seasoned Achanta Sharath Kamal at the mixed doubles event at the Asian Games. The 23-year-old, who did a star turn at the Commonwealth Games, was delighted she could make an impact in Jakarta too. The Delhi paddler is now focused on getting into the top 40 in the world and improving her reflexes.
The mixed doubles bronze and the men’s team bronze (Sharath, Anthony Amalraj, G Sathiyan) were the first medals for India in table tennis in Asian Games. The achievement underlines the growth of table tennis in the country which is undoubtedly experiencing one of its best phases.
Manika, who has emerged as the poster girl of table tennis in India, lost in the singles pre-quarterfinals to Wang Manyu of China.
“It was a great feeling to win a medal. We never had won a medal, so to win it meant a lot. The performance at the Commonwealth Games gave us a lot of confidence. It was wonderful to pair with him (Sharath). I learned a lot,” said Manika, who had returned with four medals from the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast, Australia.
“It was my second Asian Games, and I took a back a few things I could work on. Beating World No 20 Lee Ho Chin in the opening singles of team event was also good. I lost to Wang in the singles, but I gave my best. I need to be faster with my reflexes, and court-craft.”
The country’s top-ranked paddler is now participating at the National Ranking (South Zone) Table Tennis Championships, before heading for the Belgium Open, beginning September 23, and the Swedish Open, beginning November 15.
“The target is to qualify for Olympics. I need to improve my ranking, and get into the top-40 bracket,” said Manika who is currently ranked 56.
Sharath, 36, summed up his performance most joyfully. “There are no words to describe how happy I am. We have made history. The change began after the Rio Games, and at the Commonwealth Games we showed the improvement we had made. At Asian Games the competition is always very high as seven of the top 10 players are from Asia. So it is a very special win for all of us and assures us that the future of table tennis is bright. Most importantly, it has given us the hope to do well at Tokyo Olympics,” said Sharath, who would be leaving for Germany for training.