Mixed doubles India`s best bet for a medal at Paris Olympics, feels G Sathiyan

Top-ranked Indian G Sathiyan feels India has the potential to be among the top five table tennis nations and the rapid growth of the game can be fuelled further with an elusive medal at the Summer Olympics next year. He firmly believes that India`s young players have the potential to do even better than he and his contemporaries have managed to achieve.

“In the team rankings, right now we are closing in on the top 10, but the way we are playing as a unit, we can be a top five nation in table tennis,” Sathiyan told PTI in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Ultimate Table Tennis here.

“I see a lot of players who can break into the top 50, we have to have more Indians coming into the top 50 and going closer to that Olympic medal. This Paris Olympics will be a great chance to qualify as a team and get closer to that podium,” said the world number 85.

Sathiyan, who was a member of the Indian team which won the gold medal in the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games, said mixed doubles will be India`s best chance to win a medal next year in the Paris Olympics. He will partner alongside Manika Batra.

“We work as a team, be it Manika`s (Batra) coach or my coach. We share inputs on which (aspect) can be beneficial, even if I am away. I do practice doubles a lot with other partners. Mixed doubles is the best chance for India in the Olympic games. We share a lot of data and ideas. There has been significant improvement but there is always the scope to get better,” said Sathiyan, who reached a career high ranking of 24 in 2019.

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The 30-year-old was particularly praiseful of the young Indian players, who have also brought about a change in mindset and approach.

“I could see that they (young players) do not stop in their dreams. The young ones are all fired up, they do not have restrictions now, they are not afraid of the Chinese or the Japanese or the Koreans. They are not afraid of the top world ranked players. I could see positivity in them, which is a great sign that even if it is a top ranked player, they just go all out and exhibit their full talent,” he said.

He also feels the top table tennis nations now fear Indian players.

“Certainly, when you start winning, we do have some credit there. When you start beating the top players, the mindset completely changes that you are not looking at them as someone that you can never beat. Now, everyone is going against the Chinese and the Japanese. The mindset has certainly changed. It is about just competing on that day, skill to skill and go all out and play your heart out. I am sure with this kind of mindset and hard work we can go a long way.”

Sathiyan`s Dabang Delhi won the UTT title in 2018 and made it to the final in its last edition in 2019. The 30-year-old, who was the first Indian to break into top 25, says the franchise has a strong base of players to go the distance this time.

(With PTI inputs)

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