Highest medal haul in the Commonwealth Games. Most number of paddlers in top-100 world rankings. And the best outing ever in the World Table Tennis Championship team events. Indian table tennis is definitely on a high. More than all these quantitative achievements, what pleases the national head coach Massimo Costantini is the “respect” Indian paddlers have earned on the international circuit.
“Overall, there is a lot of satisfaction in the performance of the players and now we have a different mindset going to the Asian Games because we are getting a lot of respect from other countries. Players from other countries look at India with very high respect because India have made a lot of upsets around the world,” Costantini told Sportstar during the recently-concluded Central Zone national ranking tournament in Indore.
“That was my idea when I came back here. I wanted to change two perceptions: One, we wanted to change our perception that we can perform well and not start as losers; second is the opponent's perception while facing an Indian player. Earlier, the opponents didn't really take Indian players very seriously but now when an Indian enters the arena against any player – even Chinese – we are at the same level and the opponents are sceptical while facing an Indian,” he added.
Costantini is serving his second stint as the India coach, after guiding India's paddlers to a successful Commonwealth Games showing in 2010. The Italian, however, was realistic about Indian paddlers' chances at the next month's Asian Games in Indonesia.
"In team events, we definitely look good to get into the quarterfinal. Winning that would assure us of a medal since there's no play-off. Once we get into the quarters, the men have to play against China, Japan, Korea or one of Taipei or Hong Kong. If we play either Taipei or Hong Kong, I feel we have a very high chance of winning a medal because we know their players very well and we know that they are scared of us. When it comes to the other three teams, it's all about starting well and hoping for the best,” Costantini said.
“For women, we have a similar situation. China, Japan and Korea are super-strong. The fourth team can be Taipei, Hong Kong or Singapore. If we face one of these three, we have a chance. So it depends on the luck but we know that if we play any of the stronger teams, they will be under pressure and we will have nothing to lose. In the individuals, it will all depend on the draw to see how far (G.) Sathiyan and Manika (Batra) go.”
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