Ace Indian table tennis player G. Sathiyan has locked his eyes on three achievements: winning an Olympic medal, breaking into the world’s top-10 and beating a top Chinese player.
“It is going to be very challenging to win an Olympic medal in Tokyo. It’s a herculean task for sure,” Sathiyan told Sportstar during an Instagram live session on Wednesday.
“Even the  Asian Games was a herculean task for us. After winning the Commonwealth Games, we never expected to go and win an Asian Games medal,”
Sathiyan’s ambitions go beyond Tokyo. He believes a strong run in Tokyo will provide a great platform for the 2024 Olympics.
The Chennai-born paddler knows the importance of beating the top-ranked Chinese players because that will get people talking.
THE RAMAN EFFECT
The 2018 Commonwealth Games team gold medallist is a man of many firsts. He became the first player to break into the top-25 of world rankings and will become the first Indian to feature in the Japanese league. He credits this success to his coach, former national champion, S. Raman.
“He (Raman) has made a huge transformation in my game. He turned me from a passive and a controlled player to an aggressive player. He made sure I developed a lethal combination of having a good defence and a good attack. Under him, I improved on the technical front, serve and receive.”
TRANSITIONING FROM BLOCKER TO FINISHER
The 27-year-old paddler said Raman helped him bring about a huge change in mindset. “I used to believe that the more balls I played, the better it was. He told me it was more about the quality on the ball and the aggression with which I played. That proved to be really helpful.”
The attacking nature of Sathiyan’s game was not always present. The 2018 Asian Games team bronze medallist lists two incidents which helped him transfer from a blocker to a finisher.
“It was the 2014 All India Inter-Institutional tournament in New Delhi where the change occurred. I had just finished my engineering degree before the tournament. I was still holding back and was very defensive. I almost lost to G. Vinod but managed to save match points and make a successful comeback.
“But in the final, I let loose and expressed myself and ended up winning the title. I wanted to replicate the Sathiyan in training on match day and it worked out,” he said.
The second turning point stemmed from deep personal grief — his father’s death five years ago.
“In 2015, when dad passed away, I changed myself as a player emotionally. I played like I had nothing to lose and I stopped calculating. I started to express myself without thinking of the result. I focused more on the process and put out all my anger and energy on the board. In 2016, when I won the Belgium Open, it strengthened my belief and I knew I was on the right path,” Sathiyan explained.
FACE OF INDIAN TABLE TENNIS
For a long time, Indian table tennis was synonymous with Achanta Sharath Kamal. Now, and as Sharath Kamal says, he has passed on the baton to Sathiyan. When asked whether that’s added pressure or motivating, Sathiyan replied, “It is definitely motivating as Sharath has always been a great source of inspiration. What is even better is that he is still playing with us. So, it’s great to receive such a compliment from him.”
EVEN ROBOT STANDS NO CHANCE
Sathiyan is spending most of his time during the lockdown at home in Chennai, where he has a sparring partner in his robot, the Butterfly Amicus Prime. “I am using it in a very wise way and making best use of what I can in limited space,” he said.
Incidentally, Sathiyan’s relentless ways are taking a toll on the table tennis robot. “I have been playing with it so much that sometimes the machine heats up, it also needs a break. The robot is not able to take it and keeps getting tired.”
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