By Vivek Prabhakar SinghBangkok [Thailand], November 19 (ANI): Star Indian paddler Manika Batra bagged a bronze medal at the ongoing ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup tournament on Saturday and became the first Indian female table tennis player to win a medal at the event.
"Of course, I am really happy. I am the first Indian to win a medal in Asian Cup. I am happy and defeating so many good players like high-ranked players was also an achievement for me. I am really happy with my performance," said Manika Batra while speaking exclusively to ANI after winning the medal.
The multiple Commonwealth Games gold medallist was up against three-time champion and world no.6 Hina Hayata but rankings and seedings hardly bothered the Indian paddler.
"To be honest, I did not know and I did not check her ranking before going. So, yeah I just played my best I think in the whole tournament and if I say I was motivated in this whole tournament from the beginning, from a round of 16. I think that really helped me throughout the tournament. I was motivated I had that confidence in myself that I can. I don't know about winning but my confidence was there that I can play well and I can win against them. So, I think that really helped me in court. I had that confidence in me that I can do that," explained Manika Batra.
The 27-year-old started the tournament with a bang beating world no.7 Chen Xingtong of China. Competing at the Huamark Indoor Stadium, World No. 44 Batra defeated the fourth-seeded table tennis player 4-3 (8-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9).
"When the first day of the draw came I got to know that I am playing Chen Xingtong. So, it just came once in my mind that I am playing Chinese player. I was focused and I was not thinking too much that she is from China or her world ranking is good. Like I always see I don't see rankings. I just give my best in the table and that I gave and I think that really worked out," said Manika Batra.
Following this, she qualified for the quarterfinal. In the QFs, she defeated Chen Szu-Yu of Taiwan by 4-3 (6-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 9-11, 11-9) to qualify for the semi-final.
"I was happy for a moment that I defeated a Chinese player Chen Xingtong but then I was back in that zone that it is not over yet. I just have to keep that focus and just keep performing like this and playing the game like this so that helped me that I did not get into over-confidence and too much happy zone," told Manika Batra.
Manika Batra lost to Mima Ito of Taiwan in the semi-final match by 2-4 (8-11, 11-7, 7-11, 6-11, 11-8, 7-11). Despite her loss, she played in the bronze medal match and captured the prize.
"Ito Mima is a great player and I gave my best. I learned many things from that match which I will work on and after that, I was, of course, upset but then I thought that the matches are not over. There is still a match to be played so it is important to keep on going and keep on playing in that spirit. So, I just kept that spirit when I went to the court against Hina Hayata. I was just fighting for every ball and that helped me a lot to fight for every point," explained Batra.
The Asian Cup medallist is thankful for the support she has received from her family, Sports Ministry, SAI, sparing partner from Belarus and her sponsors managed by IOS.
"Of course, I play the game so first I would give myself credit but of course but there are many who supported me, especially my family who were there for me every time despite me winning or losing. They supported me and motivate me and I really want to thank them. Of course, there are people in SAI, TOPS everyone was there my sponsors and of course my sparing partner who is from Belarus who was always cheering for me and was there for me to practice every time whenever I need him. I want to thank all of them and the fans who supported me. The messages they sent me," said Manika Batra.
Manika Batra's historic feat has increased the expectations of Indian fans and indeed this win will boost her morale and confidence for the upcoming Asian Games scheduled in China next year. (ANI)