The Table Tennis National last has had not more than heartbreak for Gnanasekaran Sathiyan. He’s been there 3 times, however by no means managed to win the summit conflict. On Tuesday, he reached his fourth. And in Achanta Sharath Kamal, the India No 1, he’d face his hardest compatriot.
After six gruelling video games, Sathiyan lastly had Match Point. Championship Point. And when he secured his first ever title in the 82nd version of the occasion, he gestured in direction of his paddle, after which his jersey, after which shook fingers along with his opponent – a person who has received the occasion 9 occasions. On the sidelines of the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Sathiyan’s coach S Raman – a four-time national champion himself – had begun to tear up, whereas the 28-year-old took his time to soak in the achievement after his 4-2 (11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8) win in the males’s singles occasion.
“I have been trying to win the national title for a long time,” Sathiyan says to The Indian Express.
“I’ve reached three finals and three semi-finals, and I believe that this win is personally very close to my heart. The achievements of the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are much bigger than this, but this was a childhood dream and will remain a memory to cherish always.”
The Chennai-lad had taken a 2-0 lead over the 38-year-old, who is ranked 32 in the world, solely for the veteran to stage up the proceedings.
“I got a little carried away after two games and after the fourth game, I told myself not to think about the final,” Sathiyan explains. “Sharath was playing a fine short play, but my forehand attack and flicks worked well for me and I am glad that I could get this monkey off my back.”
A powerful forehand was not unseen in Sathiyan’s repertoire. But he confirmed that the shot has solely gotten larger since he labored on it throughout the lockdown. And with a brand new modification to his paddle, it’s develop into an much more potent weapon.
It maybe explains why he tapped it after he received the title.
New rubber, larger forehand and difficult serves
The lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic pressured Sathiyan to take time away from aggressive desk tennis, but it surely gave him an opportunity to construct up his physique. He labored on enhancing his health along with his physio Ramji Srinivasan, whereas Raman began to chalk-out a brand new technique to enhance his recreation.
“For a long time I knew that my forehand was not up to the mark and I worked on bringing more brush and spin to it,” Sathiyan says.
“So I changed the rubber I use to Dignics 09C. It’s a bit stickier, so it has the friction to generate more spin. It’s also a hard rubber, so it offers more pace.”
To get extra spin although means lots of wristwork.
“I had to generate more effort from my wrists and the extra physical work in the gym helped me adjust to the requirements of the new bat,” he provides.
Raman nonetheless had taken it upon himself to verify his ward introduced in higher variations in the serve. Over the previous few years, the pair wouldn’t get a lot time to spend in coaching due to the busy tour schedule. It’s been the identical since play resumed and Sathiyan travelled to the Polish and Japanese leagues to ply his commerce.
In the quick break that adopted, Raman had ready a particular program for coaching.
“This time my first focus was to change his service profile. We had detailed discussions on how he is going to serve and return serve. Then we went through different service motions,” says the 51-year-old coach.
“Whether it was spin, rotation or angle, we studied each aspect and developed some different styles for him. The biggest thing was getting him to serve like a left-hander and we worked on improving the banana (curving) return. The way he sets his forehand attack was the key and the new rubber offers him better control and impact to do that, along with playing deceiving shots too,” says Raman.
Nationals finished, Olympic qualifiers subsequent
Over the previous few years, Sathiyan has made fast strides up the rating ladder. The present World No 37 has been as excessive as 24 – the greatest for an Indian – and has even reached a World Cup quarterfinal, again in 2019.
All of it, nonetheless, was to set himself up for a run at the Olympics in Tokyo. And he’s continued to discover totally different avenues to assist him put together as a lot as doable for the quadrennial even in July.
Trips to Poland, the place he performed for Sokolow SA Jaroslaw, helped him get again into the groove. But a stint in Japan, the place he performed for the Okayama Rivets meant that he may rub shoulders with the likes of World No 4 Tomokazu Harimoto and former No 4 Jun Mizutani (his teammates at the membership have been former World No 5 Koki Niwa and former No 21 Masataka Morizono).
“Spending time with somebody like Koki Nawa and seeing Harimoto and other top players made me understand how players like them approach the game. Their focus is more on the quality of strokes rather than hitting more balls and that helped me change my mindset,” he says.
There’s nonetheless the prospect of Olympic qualification that Sathiyan has to handle earlier than he can e-book one other ticket to Tokyo.
In March, he’ll compete in two World Table Tennis Contender occasions in Doha, adopted by the World and Asian Olympic qualifiers at the identical venue.
Raman in the meantime has already deliberate what the focus must be on: “increasing the range of shots, improving the short game and counterattack.”
But Sathiyan now has a spring in his step. After all, he’s managed to overcome a title that has eluded him on fairly a couple of events. And beating the evergreen Sharath in the last made successful the title all the extra prestigious for him.