CHENNAI: The 2017 World Table Tennis Championships are set to begin in Dusseldorf, Germany from May 29. In preparation for the event, the Indian team, comprising of four men and as many women, have started their camp at the venue from May 10.
The men’s team has India’s highest ranked player A Sharath Kamal (World No 54), Soumyajit Ghosh (World No 83), G Sathiyan (World No 125) and Harmeet Desai (World No 95). All players will begin the meet from the first round, without having to go through qualification.
The women’s team comprises of Manika Batra (World No 103), Mouma Das (World No 129), Madhurika Patkar (World No 190) and Ayhika Mukherjee (World No 150). Except for Manika, the other three will have to qualify for the main draw. The paddlers will also participate in doubles as well as mixed doubles. But the combinations have yet to be decided by the team management.
The step to hold such a long camp at the venue, taken by coach Massimo Costantini, will hold the paddlers in good stead when the tournament starts. “Getting used to the conditions here is very important. Also a long camp helps us work on our strategy as well as small things such as footwork. Max (Massimo) has devised a separate itinerary for players where we will work on our weaknesses,” Soumyajit told Express from Dusseldorf.
The event will be played on brand new DHS black tables, something the players are not used to. A three-week camp will ease the adjustment period. The players are practising in tandem with paddlers of the host nation as well as a few members of the Austrian and Portuguese team.
Another novel aspect from the Indian point of view is that they have taken a masseuse with them to the event.
“We are thankful to the federation for taking such a step. After long practice sessions and match days, we all get tired. Recovery is vital to perform better. This will definitely help in the long run,” Madhurika said. Only one support staff in addition to the coaches and team members are allowed.
In order to leave no stone unturned, former national champion-turned-coach Soumyadeep Roy will join the team from Wednesday. He will act as a link between the coach and the paddlers. His experience in playing in World Championships will come in handy as the paddlers hope to make a mark.
“The coach has asked us to try our best. All of us want to make it through to the top 32. With the best players set to play, beating higher ranked opponents will help us improve our rankings as well,” Soumyajit added.
Mouma, meanwhile, is set to become the first table tennis player from Asia to participate in the World Championships for the 16th time. She first played in the event in 1997 in Manchester. “I’m honoured to be a part of history. Most of my teammates are half my age but I will try my best to go as far as possible in the tournament.”