“Tighten the forearm and brush the ball before going for the topspin.”

Well, this is the new mantra of coach Somnath Ghosh which helped 23-year-old Akula Sreeja win her first Senior national championship women’s singles title in Shillong last weekend.

Incidentally, this happened to be the first senior national women’s singles title for a player representing the united Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Former National Games medallist Somnath, who has been mentoring Sreeja since 2011, said his champion trainee was far more mature and confident this time around. “We worked really hard in the last three months to keep improving her fitness and skills,” Somnath said.

“Honestly, first title is always special and that too because this Senior National is totally different given the fact that three players — Sreeja, Reeth Rishya and Diya Chitale (whom Mouma beat in the pre-quarters and semifinal respectively) — are all at the top in women’s singles and everyone is trying to book a place for the Commonwealth Games later this year,” Somnath said. “It is an out of the world feeling for both of us,” he added.

READ: Sharath Kamal beats Sathiyan, wins 10th senior national title

“We hope Sreeja, sponsored by Lakshya Foundation, will be there in the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games and win a medal as this Senior National title can well be the turning point of her career. Yes, the long wait has finally ended,” said a delighted Somnath, who is the head coach of Somnath Ghosh UTT Academy, funded by Control S and Raheja.

“We are also grateful to the fitness trainer Hirak Bagchi, Telangana IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao for helping me to move over from Railways to Sports Authority of Telangana State on deputation as table tennis coach. Jayesh Ranjan Sir (IAS), Sports Minister V. Srinivas Goud, Amarnath Reddy, Vita Dani of UTT and TTTA secretary Prakash Raju have all helped us in getting us the kind of exposure we were looking for,” he said.