G Sathiyan eyes maiden national table tennis title and Olympic qualification

India’s top player, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran will make a desperate bid to make his first Olympics after the senior nationals in February. 

By Utathya Nag ·

Indian table tennis player Sathiyan Gnanasekaran has his eyes set on winning his maiden senior national title in February and hopes to follow it up by clinching a Tokyo Olympic berth in March.

Regarded as India’s premier men’s table tennis player currently, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran’s has two International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Pro-Tour titles. He is also the first Indian to break into the top 25 in world table tennis rankings.

However, success at the nationals have eluded G Sathiyan so far. He lost thrice in the finals and the same number of times in the semi-final stage. 

“Nationals are quite important and definitely on my bucket list. I will try my best. This is a special year as due to COVID there are only singles this time and there will be less exposure to the table before we start playing,” Sathiyan told the Hindu.

“It will be mentally more challenging. We have to adapt quickly to the conditions,” the table tennis player added.

The nationals, which will be held from February 14 to 23 in Panchkula, Haryana, will start a busy programme for G Sathiyan, who is also aiming to qualify for his maiden Olympics in July this year.

The 28-year-old will leave for Doha immediately after the nationals to play four tournaments – the WTT Contender (March 3 to 6), WTT Star Contender (March 8 to 13), World singles qualification tournament (March 14 to 17) and the Asian Olympics Qualifiers (March 18 to 20) – back-to-back.

The last two will have berths for the Tokyo Summer Games on offer.

“It will be tiring. I am prepared. I hope I can tick both my boxes of winning the nationals and secure a berth for the Olympics,” Sathiyan noted.

Sathiyan’s coach Subramaniam Raman also believes that this year could be his star pupil’s best opportunity to win his maiden national title.

“The bio-bubble era, where he has to return immediately after playing abroad, has turned out to be advantageous. He has acclimated to the Indian conditions well. We are driving the idea that this year we can have a go at the title,” S Raman said.

Raman, a four-time national champion and a former Olympian, revealed that in earlier seasons, Sathiyan’s training period in India before the nationals used to be very limited owing to him playing constantly abroad.

However, with the COVID restrictions worldwide, G Sathiyan has been training at his home city in Chennai for the past three weeks since returning from Japan after playing in the T-League. This is the longest Sathiyan has spent acclimatising to Indian conditions before any nationals that he has played in.