Paddler Manika Batra hopes for home fun

If the first week of the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis' (UTT) second edition is an indication, Manika Batra has certainly taken a big step towards greatness.

Manika Batra displayed much greater ability to control the pace of the game, even against opponents who are faster and higher-ranked.   -  Vivek Bendre

They say it's more difficult to stay at the top than reaching there. That ability is often one of the major differentiating factors between a good and a great athlete.

If the first week of the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis' (UTT) second edition is an indication, Manika Batra has certainly taken a big step towards greatness.

No doubt the UTT format – which sees a match consisting of three games unlike the best-of-five or seven games – is way too different than that on the ITTF ProTour events.

Still, to account for two top-30 players in what is her first competitive appearance on Indian soil after her phenomenal feat at the Commonwealth Games is no mean feat for Batra.

Donning the Dabang Smashers T.T.C. jersey, Batra started her UTT campaign by stunning World No. 18 Sofia Polcanova of Warriors T.T.C. over the weekend.

And the lanky girl from Delhi carried on the momentum by upstaging Sweden's Matilda Ekholm on Monday to set the tone for the Smashers' thumping win against defending champion Falcons T.T.C.

Despite Ekholm being the lower-ranked of two of her preys so far, Batra was more satisfied with her Tuesday's win.

“That's primarily because I lost to her in straight games during the World Championship (team event) last month,” Batra told Sportstar.

For a player like Batra, who relies heavily on deriving additional advantage due to her long-pimpled rubber, the likelihood of being found out at the highest level has increased after her twin gold medals at the CWG.

However, she displayed much greater ability to control the pace of the game – even against opponents who are faster and higher-ranked – and stifle them.

“I know that after the Commonwealth Games (CWG), they would be continuously trying to sort me out but I have been working hard to fox them. I am glad so far it has worked out for me,” she said.

With Smashers topping the table after the first leg of the tournament, Batra couldn't have asked for the UTT juggernaut to roll on to her hometown Delhi.

“I hope the crowd will be bigger than in Pune and I am confident of putting up a good show in front of the home support,” she signed off.