It feels great to start 2020 as the number one in the world at the U21 level: Manav Thakkar

Gujarat is a real power of Indian table tennis now, and was confirmed in the 81st National Table Tennis Championship. In the final of the S t e pre S t igioso championship, Surat Boys Manav Thakkar and Harmeet Desai, who are now part of the Indian TT team, competed in an exciting game, with Harmeet finally winning 4-3. While Manav he could not cross the final obstacle, he has reason to be happy. Manav the o The only Indian TT player who has been ranked number one in the world in any age group (he was number one in the world at the level of under 18), now he is also the number one in the world at the level under 21 years old! Excerpts from a conversation with E S t a e S t rella de TT, who made India proud to win the gold medal in doubles at 21 S t Commonwealth TT Championship la S t year:

Harmeet's experience helped him in the final

I wanted to be the national champion, but being runner-up is not bad either. Overall, it was a very good tournament for me. After we (the Indian team) failed to qualify for the Olympic Games, we were disappointed but we had to get up, considering the importance of the National Championship. It was not an easy tournament, given the entire trip after the Olympic qualifiers and the kind of tough competition on offer. I also had to face players who were better ranked than me in knockouts. I was in good shape and I did very well to reach the final. Harmeet was also in great shape and had played well even in the Olympic qualifiers, so he knew it was going to be a difficult game. He has been part of the final before (in 2013), and it was a very different kind of pressure for me. I feel that Harmeet, who has handled this situation before, maintained the courage and used his experience to get ahead.

As world number one at the U21 level, I am not under any pressure

It's a great feeling to be the world number one at the under-21 level, and I couldn't have asked for anything better at the beginning of 2020. I was ranked world number one at the under-18 level also, and being the only Indian TT player to achieve these mile S t ones certainly feels special. While people will expect me to do great things at the senior level now, I am not under any undue pressure. One day, if I can achieve something similar at the senior level also, that will be the greate S t day of my career! This year, I want to do well at the World TT Championship (to be held in South Korea in March). My current world rank at the senior level is 130, and I want to get into the top 100 as soon as possible. Once I do that, I will aim higher.

India team will recover soon

While we couldn’t qualify for the Olympic team event, Indian TT has come a long way. Team India has made huge progress when it comes to world rankings, and playing in the fir S t division. These things were unthinkable till as recently as two years ago, so we should appreciate what our players have achieved. Also, some of the players have the opportunity to qualify for the individual event (singles) in the Olympics, and we should cheer for them. We have some terrific players, and the team will bounce back soon.

Training abroad has helped my game a lot

I have been training in Portugal and Hungary and after the World Championship in March, I will focus on things like building my muscles and improving my fitness. It will help me in 2021 and 2022, when we have some very important international tournaments. Training abroad helps a lot because you have the be S t of coaches and players to train with, and they bring out the be S t in you. I have also realized that quality is always more important than quantity. It’s not necessary that if you train for 10 hours, you have had a great day. In S t ead, you might have a more productive day if you train for ju S t three hours, but there are specific things, like improving a certain shot, that you focus on. Such focused training helps you in improving as a player every day.

I hardly have time to go to Surat

I went to Surat ju S t for a few hours after the National Championship, and had to return on the same day, as I had to play in a tournament in Delhi the next day. I ju S t met my parents and did some shopping. It has been like that ever since I shifted to Ajmer after getting a scholarship in 2012, and ended up spending seven years there.

Social networks don't fascinate me

I don't get much time to be on social media. Hone S t ly, I don’t know what to do on social media beyond a point and so, it doesn’t really fascinate me.

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