Sathiyan: 'Players’ confidence at a new high'

G. Sathiyan sees a bit of badminton in table tennis’ ground-breaking bronze medals at the Asian Games and believes that this could be the start of something big, as in the shuttle sport.

The Indian men’s table tennis team settled for a historic bronze medal after losing 3-0 to South Korea. The team comprising G. Sathiyan, Achanta Sharath Kamal and A. Amalraj couldn’t put up a fight against the mighty Koreans but assured the country its first ever Asian Games medal in table tennis.   -  Getty Images

It started with Saina Nehwal troubling the Chinese in a small way here and there. And then came the Indian explosion that rocked the badminton world.

G. Sathiyan sees a bit of badminton in table tennis’ ground-breaking bronze medals at the Asian Games and believes that this could be the start of something big, as in the shuttle sport.

Invincible but...

“There are a lot of things happening, the Chinese are not invincible any more. They have marked us down as rivals to watch out for. The future looks very bright,” said the 25-year-old World No. 40, who shocked World No. 23 Kenta Matsudaira and Jin Ueda in India’s stunning 3-1 victory over Japan that brought the men’s team bronze here.

“But China is still a major force, still one level up, not only to India but to the entire world. If you take No. 2, Japan, they also feel China is still a level higher. We are one level lower than Japan but we have also started beating the Chinese here and there.”

Mini Olympics

The Asian Games is like the mini Olympics and the victory has raised players’ confidence to a new high, feels Sathiyan.

“This has given a very big belief to us and a strong message to other countries that India is among the top medallists in Asia. It also brings up a lot of hope to win a medal at the Olympics as well. It’s like a mini Olympics here,” said Sathiyan.

“There are plenty of takeaways from this Asiad. We have won a lot of Commonwealth Games medals but the Asian Games medal will be something very big and will be at the top in the achievement list. Probably, it’s just next to Olympics.”

The seasoned Sharath Kamal — who also won a mixed doubles bronze with Manika Batra — Harmeet Desai, A. Amalraj and Manav Thakkar were the other members of the team which won the men’s bronze.

“Our huge success at the Commonwealth Games gave us a lot of confidence. It was just Sharath before but now the team itself has gone big. Everyone is so good that anyone can play in any spot,” said Sathiyan.

Peep into Chinese method

For long, the Chinese played behind a closed wall. But a recent trip to China, to train with the country’s players gave Sathiyan a peep into the champion system.

“The Chinese invited us for a training camp at Chengdu before the Asiad. We got a chance to have a session with their national team players. We also trained with their provincial players, who are also of a good standard,” he said.

He said the Italian coach’s arrival and playing the Pro tours also helped immensely.

“The arrival of coach Massimo Costantini was a big factor. He has put a system in place. We have been going regularly to training camps abroad, playing more Pro Tour events. So, there is a constant focus to get better.”