'I kept telling myself I could win,' says Manika Batra

"The feeling is yet to sink in. Winning for the country is so special," said Indian paddler Manika Batra, after clinching a historic gold medal in the women's table tennis singles event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Manika Batra celebrates after defeating Yu Mengyu in the women's singles match on Saturday.   -  AFP

“Amazing”. In one word, Manika Batra described the most eventful day of her budding career after she stunned two Singapore medal-contenders on her way to the 2018 Commonwealth Games singles gold medal.

Minutes after making history by becoming the first Indian woman to clinch the individual table tennis gold at the Games, Manika spoke to Sportstar. “The feeling is yet to sink in. Winning for the country is so special. Today, I stayed composed in every situation and that helped me perform the way I did. I kept telling myself that I could win,” she remarked.

READ: Manika wins India’s first women’s singles gold

The day that began with a heartbreaking defeat in the mixed doubles semifinals, − where she and G. Sathiyan missed a match-point − ended with an unexpected individual gold to go along with the gold and the doubles silver medals.

Manika Batra celebrates with her gold medal.   -  Getty Images

Talking about the 4-3 semifinal victory against World No. 4, three-time Olympic medallist and two-time defending champion Feng Tianwei, Manika said, “Even before I beat her in the team championship final (earlier in the week), I told myself not to get overawed by her world ranking. I played point by point without looking too far ahead.

“Today, after I lost the fourth and fifth games (11-5, 11-5), I realized she was fiercely attacking my forehand. So I got ready with my blocks and that helped in pulling off the sixth set. Luckily, Feng did not change tactics in the final set. Even when faced match points (at 9-10 and 10-11), I remained calm. I continued to mix it up while being ready to block. Perhaps, she did not expect the ball to come
back as many times.”

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About the final, where she battled from 1-6 in the first game against World No. 50 Yu Mengyu to win 4-0, Manika said, “Unlike Feng, Yu wants to attack at the earliest. So I had to block more to keep the rally going. That frustrated her. Once she grew desperate, I knew she would make more mistakes. At times, I took my chances and attacked with my forehand. That worked out well.”

Asked about how she dealt with Mengyu, a former World No. 9, from bridging a three-point deficit to make it 7-7 in the fourth set, Manika noted, “I stayed calm and kept her guessing. That got rattled and committed mistakes.”