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Manika targets singles medal in 2024

Says she is satisfied in executing her training regimen in mixed doubles qualifying

If qualifying in singles for her second successive Olympics last week wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, Manika Batra then partnered A. Sharath Kamal to confirm a spot in the mixed doubles category to make it a double delight. That the duo stunned the World No. 5 pair Lee Sang-Su and Jihee Jeon was the icing on the cake.

Four days after returning to Pune, where she is based for the last two years, Manika opened up about her Olympic qualification.

Excerpts:

In the mixed doubles qualification match, did you surprise yourself by blocking Lee Sangsu’s powerful forehands consistently?

Many were surprised, since his speed is way too much. But I wasn’t. With the training regimen 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 fellow players at the academy, it helped me immensely in mixed doubles. I could even return Lee Sangsu’s top-spins with a top-spin. To be honest, I wasn’t shocked but I was satisfied that I could execute the training regimen in a key match.

Do you think mixed doubles is India’s best chance for its first Olympic table tennis medal?

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. It was really difficult to tackle our opponents’ spins and services in the qualification match, but I did really well and it helped Sharath bhaiya attack freely. If I maintain my singles training regimen well, I can translate it into mixed doubles as well. Of course we will give our best and try and make India proud.

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 player in singles in Tokyo. That’s the objective. 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 against them. UTT has really helped all of us to boost our confidence level. UTT is the only league I play in the world, and prefer training in Pune.

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