Easily the best table tennis I have played in my life, says Manika

After clinching a historic gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, Manika Batra says she played her career's best game to defeat Singapore's World No. 4 Feng Tianwei.

The members of the Indian women's table tennis pose with their gold medals after defeating Singapore in the final.   -  Getty Images

As the Indian women's table tennis contingent sat down for the most memorable dinner of their lives, Sportstar spoke with virtually each one of them about their historic achievement – beating Singapore, who in 2010 had become world champion by beating the mighty China – a few hours earlier.

Excerpts:

Manika Batra
I still don't know how I managed to pull it off (against World No. 4 Feng Tianwei). Easily the best table tennis I have played in my life... I have still not actually come to terms with what has actually happened, but it wouldn't have been possible without the support of each and every member of the squad.



Before the final, the coaches motivated us additionally and it played a huge role in what we achieved. All five of us were backing each other, not just over the last week but for the last 18 months or so that we have been training together.

READ: Indian women claim gold in table tennis

I feel Indian women's table tennis players will no longer be looked at also rans from now on. Beating Singapore is a huge achievement. I just hope I can continue in the same vein in the individuals.

Madhurika Patkar
Just after the semifinal, we had a team meeting where Max (head coach Massimo Costantini) told us that beating England and making it to the final was nothing special. “We are seeded second, so we have only achieved the bare-minimum target. Now is the time to achieve something extraordinary,” he told us.
 


That spurred us on. Even Roy da (coach Soumyadeep Roy) told us “if you win silver, people will only congratulate you but if you pull off the gold, you will remain heroes all your life”. That kind of spurred us on and as Mouma said, once Manika set the tone, we didn't want to let go of the golden opportunity and had to win the doubles.

To conclude, only the three of us were inside the arena, but Pooja (Sahasrabudhe) and Sutirtha (Mukherjee) have played an equally important role in bringing the gold home. This is a result of team effort.

Mouma Das
I have been playing the Commonwealth Games since 2002 and every time I have seen Singapore walking away with the gold medal without much resistance. Naturally, it will take a while for the feeling to sink in. Honestly, all of us feel like floating in the air. To sing the national anthem and make every Indian proud because of our achievement is just impossible to describe.

 

And a majority of the credit should go to Manika. The manner in which she set the tone in the final was just incredible. Once she had beaten World No. 4, we didn't want her efforts to waste.

Her win in the first match motivated Madhurika and I even more when we started the doubles match. We knew the doubles was going to be decisive and I am delighted we could end up on the winning side and let Manika wrap it up in style.

Massimo Costantini, Head Coach
I have always believed that you have do something special if you have win at the big stage. We entered with this feeling that we had to culminate the hard work of the last 18 months by making something extraordinary. The confidence and the feeling that the girls carried all through the tournament was remarkable. With this performance, not only have these five girls grown in stature, but they have also lifted the profile of Indian women's table tennis. They were so determined, so fearless.

 



Manika, in fact, won 11 points in one of the games against Tianwein in 11 different ways. More than winning, what she would have learnt today is more than what she will in the coming 10 years. Women's doubles was also a masterpiece. They were up against a pair that was unbeaten. It was a stiff task but the team spirit came to the fore. Very happy for all the girls.

Pooja Sahasrabudhe

Sutirtha and I were both at our first Commonwealth Games. And it has turned out to be the most memorable week of our lives. All I can say is dreams do come true.

During each of our training sessions – be it in India or overseas – all of us have dreamt to see us on top of the podium. And thanks to Manika's extraordinary effort – I have become a huge fan of hers – we could achieve that.

Soumyadeep Roy, Coach
Totally unexpected. Something like this happens once in a lifetime. To take the game to some of the best in the world and beat them in a high-pressure match, very few can achieve that. Very proud of the way the girls fashioned today's victory. We the coaches can strategise and motivate them but the manner in which the girls raised their bar and executed the plans was just incredible.

Today's performance has definitely brought the Indian women's table tennis out of the shadows of men's. They will be taken very seriously wherever they play now on.