Japan stint gives Gnanasekaran's Olympic goals a big boost

With a last-eight appearance in singles on his mind, Indian table tennis player Sathiyan Gnanasekaran is gearing up for some tough challenges at the Tokyo Games.

By Naveen Peter ·

The Tokyo Olympic Games is just over seven months away and one of India’s top-ranked table tennis players, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, has already laid down his target for the quadrennial event next year.

"I want to pull off some upsets and reach the Round of 16 or the quarter-finals, that's going to be the dream,” Sathiyan told News18.com.

“It’s always been my dream to play the Olympics for India so that's a big thing. I am a much mature player now and have learnt a lot of things about my game in the last year. I have improved technically, physically and mentally. These things should help. I hope 2021 is a game-changing year for me.”

The 27-year-old Sathiyan has been one of the brightest prospects for Indian table tennis over the past few years.

Be it his performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games or a dominant run at the international stage that saw him beat the likes of world No. 4 Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan, the former top-10 player Simon Gauzy of France and Denmark’s Groth Jonathan, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran has raised the bar has been consistent every year.

And even though the COVID-19 pandemic forced him into a break this time, the Chennai-based player was back in his groove with competitive matches in the Polish Superliga and the Japanese T-League.

Having spent the past few weeks competing for Okayama Rivets in the T-League, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran believes that the exposure will prove handy when the Olympics comes close.

“More than the matches, I think the level of training I have got, practising with top Japanese players, I don't think I would have got this kind of practice available anywhere else. It's great preparation for the Olympics and the best I could get,” Sathiyan said.

"When you have 20-30 top players training together, you can imagine the intensity. They (Japanese) focus on a lot of skill training, practising fine skills.”

While Sathiyan Gnanasekaran has ventured out in search of competitive action, Manika Batra has found it hard to find game time this season.

While Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Harmeet Desai, who featured in the French league, have taken steps to resume competitive table tennis despite the challenging times, other top players like Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra have found it hard to find game time this year. 

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, currently world No. 37, thinks it could be the difference when international competitions resume.

“Compared to other countries, who are having their leagues and players are getting matches, it's tough in India. India had a national camp in Sonipat, so that's a good beginning. But yes, matches are important,” he pointed out.