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Table Tennis

'I focus on match rather than calibre of opponent': Paddler Sreeja Akula

Indian paddler Sreeja Akula entered the world's top 50 for the first time in her career after a brilliant start to 2024.

I focus on match rather than calibre of opponent: Paddler Sreeja Akula

Paddler Sreeja Akula broke into top 50 of world ranking. 


Deepanshu Jain

Updated: 11 Feb 2024 5:30 AM GMT

Indian table tennis star Sreeja Akula has started 2024 brilliantly with her first international title and has entered the top 50 of world rankings for the first time in her career.

Sreeja won the WTT Feeder Corpus Christi and put up a strong show at the WTT Star Contender Goa in front of the home crowd.

"I always wanted to do well in the international circuit and finally in 2024, I am doing that. I started the year on a high note and am very happy with my performance, this will boost my confidence for the coming tournaments," Sreeja told The Bridge in an exclusive interview.

On her way to the first international title and a good show in Goa, Sreeja defeated many higher-ranked players, including three-time Olympian Lily Zhang in the final of WTT Corpus Christi.

"I never think about player's caliber whenever I play a high-profile player, I just want to focus on my play and give my best in that particular match," said Sreeja.

Sreeja, who is supported by the Dream Sports Foundation, enjoyed her title-winning run at the WTT Corpus Christi.

"The first few rounds were easy but in the quarterfinal, I was up against Amy, that was the toughest match of the tournament for me. Amy was playing very well in front of my pimple rubber (defensive rubber) on the backhand. In the decider, I was 7-9 trailing but I stayed calm and composed and took the match in the end," Sreeja reviewed her tough quarterfinal clash.

Talking about her final against OIympian Lily Zhang, Sreeja said, "Lily is a well-known player and has a lot of experience of playing Indians like Manika as she was in UTT as well but this was my first meeting with her. Whenever I play any player for the first time, I feel I have better odds and so I was confident in that final as well."

She had a very good outing at the home event in WTT Star Contender, Goa after coming from Texas, making a quarterfinal finish in the event where she lost to the eventual champion Cheng-I-Ching of Chinese Taipei.

"The event in Goa was much tougher as many top players were in the fray. I was much more confident about the event coming after a title win and happy with my play there. The quarterfinal match was also good but Cheng was in great form overall it was a good experience for me and I will try to come back stronger in coming tournaments," said Sreeja.

The 25-year-old is now the second Indian player to enter the top 50 rankings after Manika Batra who is currently sitting in 37th place. She is also a reigning Commonwealth champion in the mixed doubles category.

"I need to maintain my rankings and play fewer tournaments and with this ranking, I can choose tournaments accordingly, will be focusing more on training as well. I am planning to go to some other Asian country for training in April-May," Sreeja revealed her plan for the year.

Sreeja will be one of the key players for the women's team at the ITTF World Team Championships, starting next week which will offer team quota for the Paris Olympics.

"I want to qualify with the team event at the Olympics, we also have a good draw at this competition, and other players are doing well individually and rising higher in the rankings, so we have a good chance of team qualification at the Olympics," Sreeja signed off.

With the Olympics in sight, Sreeja will look to make a mark in the ITTF World Team Championships.

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