Chinese ‘invasion’ not a problem for Solja

So dominant have the Chinese been, especially in the women's category, that the highest-ranked woman who is non-Asian by birth – Germany's Petrissa Solja – is placed 27th in the singles world rankings.

Petrissa Solja is no stranger to India, having had a successful outing in the 2012 World Junior Championship in Hyderabad.   -  Special Arrangement

China has been dominating the world of table tennis for decades now. But the fact that only top four or five can feature on the international circuit consistently has led to Chinese aspirants migrating to European countries. So dominant have the Chinese been, especially in the women's category, that the highest-ranked woman who is non-Asian by birth – Germany's Petrissa Solja – is placed 27th in the singles world rankings.

Solja, however, takes a pragmatic view of the Chinese intrusion. Despite admitting that she has benefited from the presence of Chinese-born players in the German national team – both her team-mates in the silver medal-winning team in the 2016 Olympics were born in China and she teamed up with China's Fang Bo to win a mixed doubles bronze in the World Table Tennis Championship last month – she doesn’t shy away from spelling out the lacunas.

“Our Chinese players (Han Ying and Shan Xiaona) are living for a long time in Germany and they also hold German passports. I understand that sometimes it's not so nice if you look at the European championships, of the top 16, 13 are born Chinese, so maybe it's boring for spectators,” Solja told Sportstar on Thursday.

“But I always say, in five years we all have to be better than them. They are getting older and we need to improve. If they still would be ahead of us, it's our mistake. I can say positive things because I was always in the team and I practise with them and I could improve.”

Excited for UTT

Left-handed Solja, who belongs to a family of paddlers with all her three sisters being groomed under the watchful eyes of their father Pavel on the table at home, would be one of the star attractions at the next month's Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT), a franchise-based league in India. The aggressive paddler, having been an integral member of the dominant TTC Berlin Eastside — a champion team in the Bundesliga — one of the most sought-after table tennis leagues in the world, is no stranger to table tennis league. Still, she has a different reason to look to forward to the UTT.

“It's something new, the Indian League. It's unusual to play with men in the same club, so I am excited to be a part of it,” she said. Each of the six teams in UTT have a mix of eight players, contrary to different leagues for men and women in Europe.

Solja is no stranger to India, having had a successful outing in the 2012 World Junior Championship in Hyderabad, where she won three bronze medals. Besides hoping the lady luck stays with her, she hopes to explore the country as well. “Last time around, I couldn't go out and see India. Now that I will be in India for three weeks, I hope I can step out and see a few places,” she said.