New Delhi: Back in the top-50 of world rankings after three years, star table tennis player Manika Batra wants to break the top-30 barrier in the near future and she knows she will have to work harder than ever to get there.
It is an important year for the 26-year-old who will defend her Commonwealth Games singles crown in Birmingham before travelling to Hangzhou to create more history at the Asian Games after winning a mixed doubles gold with Sharath Kamal in Jakarta in 2018.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast was a career-defining moment for Manika who exceeded all expectations by winning as many as four medals, including gold in singles and team.
She beat London Olympics bronze medallist Feng Tianwei twice in the competition to etch her name in history books.
Four years later, she feels she is a much improved player.
“A lot changed for me after CWG. I have improved fitness wise and game wise significantly, especially in my movements, but this is not the end and need to keep working harder. Since I am tall, I had to work a lot on my strength and agility support my back and knees.
“This year, we have CWG and Asian Games. In my mind it is there I have to win but focus is on training,” the world number 49 told PTI.
Manika was recently involved in a legal battle which led to an indefinite suspension of the Table Tennis of Federation of India.
She chose not to comment on the controversial subject but hoped that the suspension would not impact any player.
Recently signed by Adidas for its “Impossible is Nothing” campaign, Manika has also moved up to sixth and 10th in the doubles and mixed doubles rankings respectively.
Ahead of the WTT Contender in Muscat next month, Manika recently trained with mixed doubles partner G Sathiyan in Chennai.
The duo is aiming to win an Olympic medal in Paris in 2024.
A medal could not come in Tokyo Games last year but back with Sathiyan, Manika feels it is a possibility.
The two won a WTT event soon after reuniting for their Olympic ambitions.
“Sathiyan and I make a good pair. We have improved our rankings. We worked a lot on combination and understanding (recently). Techniques, we can improve even while training on our own. If we are doing well in singles, we can also support our doubles partner better,” she said.
“2024 Paris is really important for me. I want to win a medal or reach at least the quarterfinals. For that, I need to work really hard and I am doing that.”
On the professional tour too, Manika is eyeing major gains.
“So in 2019, I was in top 50, I am back there. I am really happy about that. Need to keep improving and reach the top 30 or top 20 in the near future.”
Talking about going to CWG as the defending champion, Manika said it will be extremely tough to replicate the success of 2018 but that is her goal.
“It is a long journey to reach the final and then win. Apart from Feng, there will be many other good players I will need to beat. Last time the four medals really made it special and I want to build on that performance,” she added.