G. Sathiyan and Manika Batra, who entered the Commonwealth Games mixed doubles event as the top-seeded pair, may have failed to live up to the expectation in Birmingham, but Sathiyan still believes they are the best bet for a table tennis medal in the next year’s Asian Games and the Paris Olympic in 2024.
“This I think is the best men’s team we have had but the mixed doubles will certainly be the best chance of a medal going into Paris,” Sathiyan said here on Thursday.
“It was a disappointing outing for us at the Commonwealth Games but we have learnt the lessons.”
Sathiyan was here to attend a workshop organised under GoSports Foundation’s Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme. Elaborating on the lessons having learnt after he and Manika bowed out in the quarterfinals, Sathiyan admitted that they were taken aback by the unknown quantity that the Malaysian pair of Chaven Joong and Karen Lyne took them by surprise.
“They had never played together but still were a very good pair. Iow it feels when you are blindfolded. Hardly do you play a new pair on the World Tour, so it's a lesson that you need to bring in something new when you face an unfamiliar opponent. They had all the data about us. They could watch thousands of our matches on YouTube and we couldn't find one, even though we searched a lot,” Sathiyan said.
“Also, the pressure factor. For the first time we entered as favourites and should have handled it better, so it's a lesson going forward.”
With India excelling in doubles events over the last few years, the court-appointed Committee of Administrators for running the Table Tennis Federation of India has introduced doubles events for all national ranking tournaments from under-17 onward.
Sathiyan welcomed the move. “We have been pressing for it for the first time, since it’s high time doubles is taken seriously. Doubles in table tennis are unique since you have to play alternate, unlike in other racquet sports, as a pair. So it requires different training. I hope it will create specialist doubles pairs in future,” Sathiyan said.