Suhana Saini — Adaptability her forte

Though is a top player in the u-15, u-17 and u-19 categories in India, she has also proved that she is a force to reckon with at the international level, when she bagged five titles recently.

Immensely talented: “My focus is to make a strong attempt to be in the Indian team for the 2024 Olympics. If not I will definitely be a part of the Indian contingent in 2028,” says Suhana Saini.   -  M. KARUNAKARAN

Name: Suhana Saini

Age: 15

Education: Std X

From: Rohtak, Haryana

Discipline: Table tennis

Beginning: National-level table tennis players — Vikas and Bhavna Saini — were keen to put their daughter Suhana into the sport, and the girl is keeping her parents’ dream alive.

During one of tournaments her mother was competing in, Suhana, who was just three, held the racquet in a way that surprised her parents and they realised that their kid would follow in their footsteps. Suhana quickly picked up the sport and started training at her mother’s Academy (Friends TTA — now defunct) when she was just five.

Results started to show as she performed well at the State and National events. But it was after coming under the coaching of former International paddler R. Rajesh that Suhana’s game developed. Her strokes became sharper, her forehand got more powerful and backhand gained more variety.

Till she was 10, Suhana used to attend camps conducted in Rohtak and Kochi. For the last six years or so, she is a frequent visitor to Chennai, to train with Rajesh. Currently, Suhana is staying in Rajesh’s house in Chennai.

Suhana is a top player in the u-15, u-17 and u-19 categories in India, and has also proved that she is a force to reckon with at the international level, when she bagged five titles recently. In the World Table Tennis Contender events, Suhana won five u-15 singles titles in Slovenia, Tunisia, Portugal, Hungary and Muscat.

CAREER GRAPH
  • 2016 & 2017: National cadet champion; World No. 3 in u-15 (2021 is her last year in the u-15 category). Current India No. 1 in u-17 & No. 2 in u-19
  • 2015: U.S. Open gold.
  • 2017: ITTF World Junior & Cadet Open in Greater Noida — u-13 gold.
  • 2018: South Asian Junior & Cadet Championships in Maldives — u-13 gold.
  • 2021: World Table Tennis Contenders — five u15 singles titles in Slovenia, Tunisia, Portugal, Hungary and
  • Muscat.
  • 2021: ITTF World Youth Championships — Suhana won three of the four medals that India bagged. She was
  • part of the Indian u15 girls team that won a bronze. She also won bronze in u15 girls doubles and u15
  • singles.

In the ITTF World Youth Championships held in Portugal from December 2 to 8, Suhana won three of the four medals that India bagged. She was part of the Indian u-15 girls team that won a bronze, and she went on to win two more bronze medals in u-15 girls doubles and u-15 singles.

Trusting his ward: Suhana with her coach R. Rajesh. “She is pushing herself more and the results are encouraging, says her coach.   -  M. KARUNAKARAN

 

Recalling her fine show in WTT tournaments, Suhana, who trains at the Institute of Table Tennis Centre (ITTC) said: “I went to Croatia (for the first tournament) after missing one year due to COVID-19. I didn’t have any expectations. I reached the u-15 final and entered the u-17 semifinals, beating some really good players. That gave me confidence in the remaining tournaments and I beat a few strong players. In Lisbon, at the WTT Star Youth Contender, I beat the then World No. 1 Vlada Voronina of Russia in u-19 pre-quarterfinals which raised my confidence. Winning three medals at World Youth championships has given me immense hope that I can perform consistently at the World level. Now I want to perform well in higher age groups regularly, both in India and abroad.”

Routine: Suhana is at the ITTC at 5.30 a.m. and trains till 9.30 a.m. and again in the evening from 5.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday with equal emphasis on on-court and off-court tactics.

Ambition: “I want to do well in the National championships in my category (u-17) and higher-age categories. My focus is to make a strong attempt to be in the Indian team for the 2024 Olympics. If not I will definitely be a part of the Indian contingent in 2028,” Suhana says.

Strong point: According to her coach Rajesh, “Her biggest strength is her ability to attack from both flanks and absorb what is being said and implement them judiciously on court.” Rajesh said it is also the trust the two enjoy and the system they follow which is the reason for the success of his ward. “Now she is pushing herself more and the results are encouraging,” says the 44-year-old coach.

Rajesh adds, “The best part is her innate nature to adapt to conditions in India and abroad. Everything changes from the hall to the table and the ball once you travel abroad. She knows exactly how to play in different conditions.”