Manika Batra riding on career-best world ranking to elevate Paris 2024 performance

New Delhi:  Indian star paddler Manika Batra is looking ahead to 2024 Paris Olympics with the utmost confidence. She has achieved the career-best rank of World No 24 and has also regained the No 1 Indian female table tennis player rank.

The 28-year-old had a successful outing at Saudi Smash last week. Manika made headlines after defeating World No 2 Wang Manyu of China in Saudi. The Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) athlete, however, failed to move past the quarters after losing to Hina Yayata.

In her own words, Manika is really happy with her performance in Saudi and is now turning her attention to Paris with a mission to elevate her performance.

“I am really happy with the way I performed and fought for every ball at Saudi Smash,” Manika told SAI Media.”I really liked my fighting spirit and my calmness and confidence. This tournament will really motivate me looking ahead to Olympics. But I want to do more.

“I have to work on the mistakes and I will keep on pushing myself harder. I have to do some intense sessions for the next one and a half months and in Paris, I want to perform higher than I did in Saudi.”

The outing in Paris is set to be Manika’s third-straight Olympic games participation and she has her priorities in place. “I have competed in every Olympic to win a medal for my country. This year will be the same. I will work hard every second. I’m giving my best this time and don’t want to come back with a regret. I want to put my 100% effort for myself, my country and the people who are cheering for me,” she added.

Shedding light on the technical aspects of her game, Manika mentioned, “I am working a lot on my forehand lately along with my coach Aman Balgu. I’m not looking at bringing new aspects to my game, rather I’m working on strengthening my strong points.”

“I’ve realised its very essential to be physically fit and have a great stamina to make it till the final rounds. Mental fatigue too crops in. So, you have to be fit in both aspects. I do breathing exercises during and before my matches and coach Aman is helping me mentally on the court as well as off court. I have super reliance on my coach, practice partner and my physio. We have to achieve many things going forward even beyond the Olympics. The kid is there in me to enjoy and win every match,” she said.

One of the most notable achievements this year has been the dominance of Indian women paddlers over the top Chinese seeds. While Manika defeated World No 2 Wang in Saudi, her teammates Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula defeated World No 1 Sun Yingsha and World No 3 Wang Yidi respectively at the World Team TT Championships Busan in February.

Commenting on the performances, Manika expressed, “It’s a huge thing for India and Table Tennis in particular, beating the Chinese at this level. I’m really happy for the achievements by Ayhika and Sreeja and how we all are working hard towards the common vision. And I’m happy the way table tennis is growing in India. This is something I’ve always wanted.”

The Khel Ratna awardee may be disappointed for not being able to secure a mixed doubles quota along with G Sathiyan but she is looking ahead. “Sathiyan and I were upset. We were really working hard, participated in a lot of tournaments and training sessions. I cannot change the destiny but I have to channelise it through a positive energy and put my entire effort for my singles and team events at Paris,” Manika signed off.

IANS

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