Shen Yaohuan as sparring partner a 'big boon' for Sathiyan

After an elaborate search, G. Sathiyan and his coach S. Raman zeroed in on Shen Yaohuan to become India's No. 1 paddler's sparring partner.

Sathiyan and his coach Raman alongside Shen Yaohuan.   -  K. Pichumani

Shen Yaohuan is a young paddler from China whom not many have heard about. The 22-year-old has not participated in any International Table Tennis Federation-recognised events, and plays actively only in the Chinese TT league.

But as a sparring partner for quite a few top players, he is quite famous across continents and plies his trade training with the National teams of Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei. He has also travelled to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, USA and Russia to spar with different players.

It was after an elaborate search that G. Sathiyan and his coach S. Raman zeroed in on Shen. The Chinese will spar with Sathiyan at the Raman High Performance TT Centre at Chetpet here for the next week or so to get the India No. 1, ranked 30 in the world, to be in fine fettle for the World Cup to be held in Chengdu (China) from November 29 to December 1.

On the reason for choosing Shen, Raman said he picked him because of his top-notch attacking style of play. “[At the World Cup], Sathiyan will be playing against slightly different style of players. With that in mind, I’ve worked out a training program. We need to have good sparring on the other side to be able to send back such quality balls. That’s where Shen comes at a premium. He can send balls at that high speed with a different spin, variations, deceptions. Be it on serve, receive, attack and counter-attack. The whole idea is to have quality sparring where Sathiyan is able to psychologically feel that at this speed he is able to do these things. This gives a good feeling before going to a big event like the World Cup,” he said.

Sathiyan thanked Raman for mooting the idea of a sparring partner and making it a reality. “Having mother’s food and training under Raman sir, going to Sports Dynamix gym and having a high quality sparring partner... I think this is the best environment I could set for any event,” he said.

Sathiyan said it is much better in many ways than training in China as one can’t work on specifics. “If he [Raman] can see my game and give corrections, it is great. Having a sparring partner, you can play all the two hours for yourself. That is something of a big boon,” the 25-year-old said. “Shen is better than the ones we had when we went to China.”

Raman said he is looking at hiring more sparring partners with different skill sets in the future. Sathiyan, a two-time Pro Tour champion, said he is confident of doing well in the World Cup, even going as far as winning a medal. “It is going to be very tough. Two upsets along the way will give me a lot of confidence going to the Tokyo Olympics,” he said. “I have nothing to lose. That’s the key point.”