Hungry for a great rest, the Pritha rower leaves to count

PUNE: Family vacations at Vartikar home have not been the same since the youngest daughter of the family Pritha , has started to play tennis table .

The idea of taking extravagant trips has been toned down to the tournaments that the 13-year old tennis table player takes part in. For instance, her father Sandeep has already exhausted his leaves at his workplace to accompany Pritha to events around the country.

Not only Sandeep, even the rower's mother nervously asks for frequent work permits for the same purpose. She laughs with a cheerful touch of shame when she talks about it too. I go to work and one hour I have to listen to my bosses. When I win medals, maybe I can show it to my colleagues, said his mother, Priya, who works in the accounts department of a private company.

But is this working out for the family? At a broader level, it is. Pritha has been bagging silverware in state and district-level competitions while she has missed closely in the nationals.

The rower, who studies in modern high school, won three triple crowns in two tournaments at the district level (categories U-15, U-18, U-21) and was quarter-finals (U-15) in the citizens of the South Zone in August. . He lowered the eventual winner of the tournament, Kavyasree Baskar, in five sets.

While Pritha is taking the district circuit by the storm, she is faltering at the nationals and state-level events. She cites lack of competition in the city as the reason. I don't get enough variety of competition because other players are not good enough in the city. And when I go for nationals, suddenly, I find good players who have a variety of shots. Those are the tournaments where I want to perform , said Pritha.

Her mother insisted that TT academies in Delhi are interested to train Pritha but the parents are not willing to leave her so far away at a tender age. We feel that it is too far and I have a government job where I cannot seek a transfer, said Sandeep. And Mumbai feels impossible after calculating the costs. Lakshya (Sports NGO) has been looking after her expenses but even with that, we won't be able to bear her costs. Maybe in a few years, we can think about it because it is necessary for her to go and play with better players than her.

To find a solution to this problem, they have appointed Soumen Saha as her coach. He has come down from Kolkata and he has been training Pritha for the last year. He has brought a great improvement in my game. My forehand is my greatest strength but we have been working on other aspects, said Pritha while her father was playing a two-minute long video of her 84-shot rally in a training session .

Pritha dedicates her free time to watch videos of Romanian paddler Bernadette Szocs whose world rank is 17. "I love how she does not give up. I have been following her quite some time now. I feel that her style if a mix of all things. She has smooth backhands and strong smashes, I try to imitate those," said Pritha who started playing tennis table while watching her elder sister.

Pritha is ranked eighth in the sub-junior (U15) division and to go abroad for competition on government's expenses, she needs to be in the top four. She faces a stiff challenge from Nashik Taneesha Kotecha and Suhana Saini from Hariana in the division. She beat Taneesha twice in the recent state qualification meeting with comprehensive wins of 3-0 and 4-0 in sections U-15 and U-18, respectively.

Her coach is also aware of the lack of competition at the district level while he works on it. Pritha is always high on confidence but we get to know her weaknesses, that her opponent can figure out, by the time we reach pre-quarterfinals or quarterfinals of state or nationals. I cannot change her style at the moment but we watch videos to improve her faults, said Soumen who trains Pritha at Gogate Prashala in Narayan Peth.

Pritha has time and again proved to be a challenge for top players in the country but her ranking has to improve in order to play international competitions. Maybe then she and her family can enjoy good vacations abroad while she continues strive for greater heights.