G. Sathiyan, the wily Chennai paddler, slipped to World No. 88 in the International Table Tennis Federation’s (ITTF’s) weekly rankings update on July 18. The last time the India ace had been placed lower in the international rankings list was in October 2017, when he was No. 102 in the then monthly update.
In fact, ever since Sathiyan broke into the top-50 bracket in January 2018, the multiple Commonwealth Games gold medallist never fell out of the elite group until May this year. Since then, owing to a combination of a break that he took while getting married last year, change in the ITTF ranking system and a recent blip in form meant he was feeling low.
But the mind of an engineer - in consultation with his personal coach S. Raman - has been working on modifying his technique.
“I felt the rhythm was kind of missing out there. Of course, I have peaked so much for so long that it was normal that it (downside) came in. I wouldn’t call it a low but the peak performance came a little down and I have been maintaining that level,” Sathiyan told Sportstar after leading Dabang Delhi TTC to its maiden win in the Ultimate Table Tennis season four.
“I have to be a little more open to ideas. Raman Sir told me about playing my game and not to think too much. I have also made some equipment changes to adapt my game. It sets the tone for the Asian Games and I hope I can peak again at the right time heading into the Asian Games.”
The manner in which Sathiyan defeated Kazakhstan’s Kiril Gerassimenko of Bengaluru Smashers on Tuesday night indicated that he was not only getting his mojo back but also appeared to be more proactive on the table.
Sathiyan was candid to admit that the fall in ranking, albeit expected, did make it harder to cope with the loss of form over the last couple of months.
“Numbers, rankings always give extra motivation but it doesn’t matter much. I have beaten higher-ranked and lost to lower-ranked players. For me, ranking is just a byproduct. More than ranking, the quality that you bring in matters more for me,” Sathiyan said.
“Beating a top player matters more for me. I would rather prefer beating a top-10 player over being in the top-20. That gives you confidence that you belong there. The expectations have risen, having been in top-50 for five and a half years. It’s important that you keep improving your game.”
In the deciding game versus Gerassimenko, Sathiyan bounced back after trailing 3-9 to win the match. Later in the tie, he teamed up with Barbora Balazova against Gerassimenko and Manika Batra in the mixed doubles. It was a rare occasion of Sathiyan facing his mixed doubles partner. Even in the last edition of UTT, the duo were teammates at Dabang Delhi.
“I really don’t remember whether I have ever played against Manika in mixed doubles earlier,” Sathiyan said.
“We have never been competitors as such but it was nice to play against your mixed doubles partner. And we picked an important point as well. Except for that match, we won all the other matches.”
Dabang Delhi TTC, and Indian table tennis community in general, will be hoping that Sathiyan continues to improve with every passing game in UTT in order to help India’s men’s team defend its historic bronze medal at Asian Games in September.
- Violent protests break out during Bulgaria-Hungary Euro qualifier, dozens injured
- Australia’s ‘happy association’ with knockouts continues but South Africa shows resilience in latest World Cup semis saga
- Creative Lee delights South Korea coach Klinsmann
- Formula One helps Vegas expand efforts to become a sporting destination
- How Afghanistan’s rapid ascent in 2023 ODI World Cup came to be: A behind-the-scenes look