Seventeen year old Akula Sreeja has been selected to play in the World Junior Table Tennis Championship to be held at Vendee, France, from November 29 to December 6. The city girl and Archana Kamath from Bengaluru will be representing India. “It is a big opportunity and I’m very happy with this news,’’ said Sreeja, who trains under Somnath Ghosh at the Global Table Tennis Academy.
Sreeja has caught the attention with her meteoric rise. Coach Ghosh feels Sreeja is a prodigy. “She is phenomenal. She is also very dedicated. I have seen her practice quietly at the academy for hours together. Every day she comes at 3pm, does her service practice play with the robot or does some fitness till 8:30pm. She has the grit and determination,’’ said Ghosh.
The coach added her forehand spin and fitness is her strong point. “She has got the new confidence after the recent European tour where she practiced for ten days in Sweden. For me, she is a very good prospect for the 2020 Olympics,’’ he said.
Sreeja agrees that the European training did help her game in a big way. “I have been more consistent with my game now. There is aggression and there is tremendous improvement in my movements near the table. I am able to execute my strokes more confidently,’’ she said.
Although she went on a short ten-day tour, Sreeja felt if she could have been there for another a fortnight or so, there could have been further development to her game. “There is a difference in my game,’’ she says.
Ghosh opined that Sreeja should be given more exposure trips. “She is a big talent and the authorities concerned should send her to European countries where she can train and play with big players. She is a very fast learner.”
Sreeja learnt the nuances of the game from her father Praveen Kumar, a former State player. Sreeja won her first title in 2011 when she triumphed in the Cadet girls category. There was no stopping and she began to make a rapid progress. She has won more than 25 titles and in the recent Telangana State ranking championship, she for the first time, won the junior, youth and women’s singles titles.
Sreeja feels she has to improve her speed. “The top players have superb ball control and speed. Their reflexes are very fast and their strokes are very deceptive. I have work on these areas to compete with the best,’’ she quips.
The World Championship is a perfect stage for Sreeja to make further improvements to her game.