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Table Tennis

A dream run for Manika Batra before Olympics to surge up in rankings

Manika Batra has injected a new boost to her confidence before Paris Olympics, following a dream run at the Saudi Smash.

A dream run for Manika Batra before Olympics to surge up in rankings
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Manika Batra is the first Indian women to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Smash tournament (Photo Credit: World Table Tennis)

By

Deepanshu Jain

Updated: 12 May 2024 10:10 AM GMT

Manika Batra, the poster girl of Indian table tennis, had an outstanding run at Saudi Smash this week, which reignited her confidence before the much-awaited Paris Olympics.

Her dream run ended in the quarterfinals on Thursday with a defeat to world no.5, Hina Hayata of Japan. But Manika returned home with three wins over the top 20 players. This excellent run will give her much-required momentum, especially after a slow start of the year and missing out on mixed team quota for Paris,

This top-class performance of her at this tournament will also boost her rankings to a new career high.

First wins over Wang and Nina

The tournament haprs oved to be one of the best tournaments of her career, marking the biggest win of her career against the world no.2, Wang Manyu. This win was very special for her as this was her first victory against Wang after losing five consecutive matches to her.

Manika made a big comeback in this match after losing the first game very easily. She shows some excellent down-the-line pushes and some wide blocks cutting the angled smashes of Wang. In the fourth game, she pulled off her best game to take the match with four points on trot in the dying moments to clinch it from 8-10 down to 12-10.

Manika pulled off another big upset in the tournament by beating Nina Mittelham of Germany in the round of 16. This was also her first victory against Nina who is ranked 14 in the world. In this match, she had a good command of the table and was easily returning the balls during rallies using full coverage of the table.

Manika had won only two games in total in the previous matches against Nina but here she dominated the match and took it in a straight-game affair, giving only 22 points to Nina in the three games. She could not medal from this tournament but added another feather to her sparkling crown.

She displayed some outstanding defensive play using her quick twiddling skills in this tournament.

Better Seed in Paris

The biggest talking point from this tournament for her will be an amazing entry into the world's top 25 ranked players. She will be the first Indian female player to achieve this feat, as per live rankings she most probably reaches the rank of world no.24.

This means she can get a very good seed at the Paris Olympics as of now, she could make it to the top 16 seeds. The Olympics is still two months away which means she can get even better ranking points from coming tournaments.

This is an extra special motivation for Manika as she lost her eight-year-long status of India's no.1 to Sreeja Akula, a few weeks back, but now she has recaptured that position from Sreeja that too with a huge margin.

A fabulous 2024 for women paddlers

Manika Batra is not the only Indian player who surprised everyone this year. Other Indian female paddlers also have a terrific 2024, be it Sreeja Akula who is also currently sitting on her career-best ranking (38), or Ayhika Mukherjee who loves to get some big fish in her pocket in every tournament.

The Indian paddlers came into the limelight this year when they took the Chinese team to the corners at the ITTF World Team Championship and took massive wins over their top two boards. Ayhika upset the world no.1 Sun Yingsha and Sreeja take down Wang Yidi.

This good run of Indian players helped them win the first-ever Olympic quota for India in team events. Now, Manika with her reignited form and a good momentum alongside the consistency of Sreeja will try to make something big out of the Paris Olympics.

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