Image Credits: Seraha Jacob
Champions are not made of victories or triumphs, true champions are made and forged from setbacks, failures and downs!
Seraha Jacob from Chennai is one of those, who overcome adversity and have the resilience to succeed.
The 22-year-old paddler talks honestly about her personal life and how the difficulties and failures have driven her on to achieve the possible success in the sport and affinity for baking and her plans to open a bake shop.
Can you share with us how you got started with table tennis? How old were you, who introduced you to the sport, and what is it about table tennis that resonated with you?
I started my Table Tennis career when I was four years old. I joined the YMCA Table Tennis Summer camp along with my two elder sisters. I was not much interested in the sport during that time, but my coach insisted me to play and at last I started being engaged with the sport professionally. I was grown up with lots of failures till my cadet final year. But I worked hard and attended extra Sunday sessions. Then I took my first title during my Cadet last year and a National gold medal in Cadet Team Championship in 2008 and many more during the coming years. I had been lucky to represent Indian team in the World Junior Table Tennis Championship.
What goes through your mind during a long rally?
During the long rally the only thing that goes on my mind is how to get the ball to my opponent’s weaker side and win the point.
Who is your all-time favorite table tennis player? Why?
Sharath Kamal is my favorite player. I have always admired his attitude both on and off the court, but he has the don't quit attitude and he never stops playing hard and does it with a smile. I find that inspiring.
Are you good in your studies as well? If yes, how do you able manage sports and studies?
I was doing pretty well in my studies and scored the highest rank in my district during my 12th grade. I always find it easier to grasp my study topics after I am done with my training as it stimulates my brain. I was able to manage both my studies and sports career and I am sure table tennis has helped me a lot in my student life.
If you had to take inspiration from a table tennis coach, who would that be? Why?
That will be my first coach Mr.Bobby Joseph as I am sure that I haven’t seen any other coach throwing his highly paid software engineer job just for the passion towards the sport. Also, he is ready to spend the entire day inside the court for uplifting his students.
How often do you currently play and train?
I train 5 hours a day including my morning and evening sessions. I also do my fitness sessions during weekdays.
In order to reach the top, a player must deal with loss and frustration. How have you dealt with these feelings over the years?
Of course, I have had fair share of loss and frustration so far as it is pretty hard to reach the top level in any sport. Lots of failures, disappointments and sufferings. A player goes to all these phases to reach his/her goals. I'm made of the failures, setbacks and the triumphs.
If you could get anyone in the world, from the past or the present, to coach you during the most important match of your life, who would it be? Why?
Massimo Costantini, Italian Table Tennis Coach. His training sessions are always closely related to the game and its tactical advices are really beneficial.
Who's your role model in being a paddler?
Lieu Shiwen (Chinese player) her game style and temperament during matches really influenced me. The adaptability to different opponents and the way she sustains over the table are the other factors.
Is there one moment in your career that brings a smile to your face?
There are many moments. Every success makes a smile on me but the precious one was when we won the first ever National Games medal for Kerala in 2015.
Where do you train now and who is your coach now?
I am currently training under my coach Mr R.Rajesh (Indian Team Coach) in Chennai under the DRA Institute of Table Tennis Academy. I always admired him for the way he enabled me to perform better during National rankings. He has helped me a lot to improve my strengths, and gave a new outlook regarding the game plans and tactical strategies.
What would you say to other boys/girls who are not sure if they should play table tennis or not?
It is always a good sport for amateurs as it is safe and non-violent sport. Don’t expect success when you start playing professionally. It is a process and every hard work, failures and success stories are a part of the story. So keep working and enjoy the sport.
How do you like to spend your time away from TT, do you have any hobbies?
I love singing and cooking.
Many players have routines, habits and superstitions when the travel and play Tennis. Do you have any individual quirky things you do before a game or special item you carry with you in your bag that must go with you everywhere?
The Holy Bible. I always carries it with me, even if I am travelling for my casual vacation other than TT. I always read the bible before the match especially Psalms 91 and those words really gives me mental peace and strength to play a match.
What’s your comfort food after a bad loss?
Ice creams and savouries
What are your future plans as far as TT goes? Do you hope to continue training through your school/college years and beyond?
I am planning to continue the sport even after my college years as I am not mainly focusing on University matches but for National and International tournaments.
Power or placement?
Backhand, forehand, serve, volley – which comes easier to you?
Take a towel break every 6 points, or not?
What would you be if not a TT player?
An entrepreneur and I am starting a bake shop as soon as possible.