Manav Thakkar paddles his way up to World No. 1 in ITTF U-21 rankings

Two years after topping in the U-18 rankings, the Indian paddler has scaled the U-21 peak.

By Sandeep Banerjee ·

The latest International Table Tennis Federation rankings update saw table tennis ace Manav Thakkar shoot to number one in the Under-21 men's category, becoming the first Indian to do so.

“It feels great and I think it’s the perfect start to 2020. I hope I can continue like this and end the year on a high,” Thakkar told news website Sportstar.

It comes on the heels of Thakkar clinching the U-21 men's singles title at the North American Open in Canada with a breezy 11-3, 11-5, 11-6 win over Argentina's Martin Bentancor and joining the likes of compatriots Harmeet Desai, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Soumyajit Ghosh.

With the title fetching him 2400 ranking points, the 19-year-old comfortably gapped himself from second-ranked Frenchman Bastien Rembert on the table.

Manav Thakkar is no stranger to the top

It's not Thakkar's first time on the top rung of a major rankings ladder either. In February 2018, he managed to climb to number one in the Under-18 category.

Manav Thakkar in action at the 2019 North American Open. Photo courtesy: ITTF

That same year, he was part of the bronze medal-winning Indian men's team at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

From gymnastics and skating to ping-pong

Born to parents who were both doctors, Thakkar dabbled in a multitude of sports as he was growing up. Among them, he attributes skating and gymnastics as having helped mould him into the table tennis player he is today.

The 21-year-old believes that the reflexes he honed at gymnastics helped him maintain posture and a heightened sense of concentration, while skating helped improve his leg movement and agility thanks to cross-stepping.

Thakkar's next goal will be to excel further on the senior circuit, where the likes of Gnanasekaran and Achanta Sharath Kamal are already well established. Currently 132nd in the senior rankings, Thakkar moved up 20 places, while Sathiyan is the top-ranked Indian, at 30th.