Manav Thakkar: I took my opportunities against Harmeet

Having “nothing to lose” against the formidable, in-form Harmeet Desai, Manav decided to go “all out” and it paid off.

Manav Thakkar starred in U Mumba's 9-6 win over Puneri Paltan.

Manav Thakkar starred in U Mumba's 9-6 win over Puneri Paltan.   -  Ultimate Table Tennis

Manav Thakkar had no trepidation when taking the court to play 112th ranked Harmeet Desai, a familiar, in-form opponent in U Mumba’s tie against Puneri Paltan at the Ultimate Table Tennis league on Saturday.

Although the two players knew each other’s game well, Manav seemed to be under pressure initially when the match against Harmeet, who had defeated G. Sathiyan in the Commonwealth Championships last month, began.

“We both practise many times together. Both of us are in the same Indian team; so, with him it was a very tough match because we know everything about each other, like what we can do in crucial stages. But when the game started, he was under pressure. He missed many easy balls, which he normally doesn’t miss. So I got the opportunity; then I started keeping the pressure on him. I tried to ensure I did not give any easy points to him. [I thought] I should just continue to play more, because he was under pressure. I won two games and then in the third, he played really well. He was keeping me under pressure. What I did in the first two games, he did in the third,” Manav told Sportstar after his team’s 9-6 win.

Manav admitted he went in with an intention to play freely and “enjoy the match.”

READ: UTT 2019: U Mumba seals semis berth with win over Puneri Paltan

“I had to be free against him because currently he is in very good form, because he has won the Commonwealth Championships recently, beating Sathiyan. I had nothing to lose against him; so [I thought] I should just go and enjoy the match against him, shout and play all out. I thought ‘Whatever I can do, I will do.’ It worked, and I won the match,” Manav said.

Manav’s win was one of four singles contests won by U Mumba. Among the exciting wins was the one scripted by Kirill Gerassimenko, the World No. 39 from Kazakhstan. In an even battle, he defeated Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan 11-7, 6-11, 11-8. The two players were engaged in fierce attacks and engrossing rallies.

“That was an excellent match. So good. Rallies all around. Both are world-class players. For me, it was very good. I could see them, in front of my eyes; [I was so close to them]. It was wonderful that Kirill won. That was good for our team,” Manav remarked.

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Witnessing foreign players – Kirill and Doo Hoi Kem – on and off the court has been a revelation for Manav. He said, “It is an all-round development for me. I can look at them, both are Olympians. I can look at their diet. What they do before a match; how they prepare before a match. They are very quiet. They are focussing; meditating. Doo Hoi Kem, she is a very good player; I saw her, she was in the players’ lounge sitting alone, planning for her singles match after she lost the doubles. She played superbly in the singles as well. Even Kirill, he is focussing; he is playing with purpose. He watches the opponent’s mistakes - what he has to play in a match. He practises that day how to play against the particular player. His diet is very good and he also motivates [us] – ‘You have to believe, keep it simple.’ So I think it’s very good to learn from them and the UTT has given a very good platform for us.”

The one sore spot for an otherwise successful U Mumba side in this competition has been its mixed doubles performance, Manav pointed out. Manav and Doo Hoi Kem have lost three out of four contests; its sole victory was in the clash against RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata.

The team, positioned at the top of the points table, next plays Goa Challengers on Monday.