Manika to pair with Sharath for doubles spot in Tokyo Olympics

Keeping an eye on the Tokyo Olympics, star paddler Manika Batra has decided to team up with Sharath Kamal and try to earn a qualifying spot in the mixed double draw.

Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal in action. (File Photo)   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Having already lost plenty of time, Manika Batra is now approaching her practise in the right earnest with Sharath Kamal to earn a qualifying spot in the mixed doubles draw ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

There has been enough speculation over the Asian Games bronze medallist duo not looking keen to come together and qualify for the Games.

“We have decided to train before the Asian Championship and also before Grand Finals. We may go to Europe and train together,” Manika said.

Though this confirmation has come seven months too late, both Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) and Indian Oil, the employers of Sharath and Manika, should be pleased.

“We are keen to get an Olympic medal. So I think if we practice more we will be in contention for a medal. Sharath and I have a good understanding which is very important in mixed doubles,” added Manika.

As things stand, Sharath and Manika face an uphill task to qualify for the mixed doubles draw in Tokyo.

In the past five months, Manika’s decision part ways with her coach Sandeep Gupta and move to Pune has been a subject of curiosity in the table tennis circles.

Initially reluctant to talk about the move, Manika agreed to share the reason behind the decision.

“I changed the coach because I needed something new in my game. Now my forehand has improved. I have beaten Chinese and Korean players, so I am quite happy with my training in Pune.”

The 56th-ranked Manika, before losing the first round of the Korean Open earlier this month, defeated little-known Korean Lee Dasom 4-0 and 171st ranked Chinese Liu Xi 4-3 in the qualifying rounds.

Being realistic, Manika candidly admitted that she was looking beyond the 2020 Olympics and aiming for a possible medal in 2024.