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Manav Thakkar is a name no new at the Junior and Youth categories of the sport amongst the country and the world. Having dominated the world through a decade, the 19-year-old recently crowned his achievements by hitting the No.1 Ranking at the world U-21 rankings which no Indian has done before. Earlier in 2018, he has also found himself the No.1 ranked in the world at the U-18 Category.
Owning a tremendous record at the Junior levels, Manav extended his successive form on setting foot in the Senior category at the Asian Games, in which he was a part of the Bronze winning team. Hurtling on with huge ambitions, Manav talks about the hurdles he has leaped across and his dreams and ambitions in an exclusive interview with Fisto Sports.
It’s been quite a difficult few months, how have you been spending your time and keeping yourself in shape?
Yes, it’s a very difficult time indeed. I’ve been spending time with my family. After 9 long years I am with my family for such a long time. I've been doing physical fitness for two hours a day, little bit service practice at home, enjoying home food, and watching movies with my parents.
When did your Table Tennis Journey begin, what brought you to the sport and when did you decide to make the cut and go professional?
We had a Table Tennis Table at home and my parents used to play, and as I watched them play I also started playing the sport. That's how I started off with the sport. I was in SR kg (6 years) when I started playing TT. I Joined the PSPB Academy Ajmer when I was 11 years old in 2011. I started doing well at all the levels including the National level and at the point I decided to make the cut and go professional.
Having had a terrific run in the Junior category for about a decade, how do you think it has shaped your career?
I played well in the Junior and Youth category and reached the Peak in them at both National and International levels. I am very happy about my performance and having done something that no Indian player Could do before. And yes, this has helped me in shaping my carrier.
How would you describe your playing style and your game?
I am a right-handed shake hand Style counter attacking player. My favorite stroke is Backhand Jab.
How did you feel on reaching the World No.1 at the U-21 Category? Did you expect to do it the second time? Was it different from the first time you scaled the peak at the U-18 Category, and how different was it?
Reaching No.1 at both the Junior and Youth categories in the world ranking is a dream of any table Tennis Player. I thank Almighty God that I was able to achieve it. I am very happy and hope to retain the Rank No.1 in U-21 for a longer time. I will work hard to win more and more medals for India.
Having played the sport at various age categories at the highest levels, how did you manage to stay ahead of the curve through each transition and what were the challenges you faced on making it to the senior category?
Competing at the Senior Level is a bit tough. It requires more fitness and Power. Me and my coach, work hard to bring out my best. I work hard, do a lot of practice, Physical Fitness, and try to follow a diet plan. It helped me manage my transition to higher levels.
How did you feel about making your cut at the senior level in 2018 at such a monumental event as Asian Games. Adding on to it was the bronze medal. Could you explain the 2018 Asian Games experience as a whole?
That was my first tournament with the senior team. I was very excited to play with the players who I watched during my Junior years. It was a totally different experience. The senior players were helpful to me and they motivated me to do my best.
How do you believe playing at the Polish league will impact your game?
At the Polish league, I got the opportunity to compete with International players of different styles. So it was a good experience as a whole. It will definitely be helpful to improve my game.
How helpful has it been to train with and play alongside players like Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai who have etched various marks. How has it impacted your game?
By watching the Senior Players Play and practicing with them I have learned so many things which will be a definite add on to my game. They always motivate me and encourage me to improve my weakness.
Who has a major part of your success and supported you throughout?
There have been various people who have supported me throughout. My Parents, Coaches, TTFI, PSPB Academy GSTTA, UTT, etc. I am very thankful to my Sponsors Indian Oil, SAG, Tibhar and Go sports Foundation.
Do you have any inspirations you look up to and how do they influence you?
M. S Dhoni is my favorite Sportsman. I am looking forward to working hard like him. I want to climb higher and higher in TT.
How is Manav Thakkar off the table, what are some of your interests you spend your time outside Table Tennis?
Outside Table tennis I spend my Time Listening to music and watching movies.
By far what do you consider the best moment that puts a smile on your face on the very thought, in your career, and why?
Winning Bronze Medal at the 2018 Asian Games is the best moment of my life.
Have you ever wanted to try a hand in other sports too, if so what sport it is?
Yes, I am always a big fan of Cricket.
What are your short term plans and long terms goals?
I want to make a progress in my World rankings at the Men's category. I want to escalate and make it into the top 100 soon. I also want to win Medals in Big stages like the Olympics, Asian Games, and Commonwealth Games.
How do you think Indian Table Tennis has developed through the years and where do you see it in the future?
In recent years Indian Table Tennis has found massive improvement. We are winning Medals in major International tournaments. With the inception of leagues like the UTT Indian players are gaining a lot of experience playing and competing with higher-ranked players. Indian Table Tennis is gaining recognition Internationally now. So the future is great and bright for Indian Table Tennis.