The table-tennis star also opined that the ITTF will be forced to organize many tournaments to return to normalcy when the pandemic is over.

As the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to all kind of sports over the past few months, including indoor sports like table-tennis, Indian table-tennis star Sathiyan Gnanasekaran has also been restricted to practicing his craft at home.

The world #30 is among the rare ones who has the privilege of practicing his skills at home thanks to his wide set-up and in an interview with MyKhel, he spoke about what’s he’s working on during the lockdown period.

He explained, “I am working on my fitness routine in the morning with my fitness trainer Ramji Srinivasan via video calls. He’s put up a fitness schedule for me with whatever pieces of equipment like hurdles, thera bands, small weights, etc. I have at home.”

“Besides, I am also watching my old videos and preparing a log for the top-50 players and how to play against them while discussing with my coach. I am also helping my mom with gardening and watching a movie with her during lunch.”

As he has to live in self-isolation during this period, Gnanasekaran doesn’t have a sparring partner by his side. However, he does have a robot whom he is training with to keep his skills well honed.

He explained, “Yeah, I imported this advanced robot in November last year from Germany at the advice of my coach Mr Subramaniam Raman (who himself was an Indian paddler). This robot is no less than a boon for me during this lockdown period as it has become my sparring partner. So, I practice for a couple of hours daily with the robot.

“Of course, a human opponent is always better than a machine because a person can access the situation by looking at you and react accordingly.

“But with this robot, I can set it to different modes to challenge me. I can set it to a random mode where it throws four balls at a different speed, spin and trajectory. It can throw around 120 balls per minute. The advantages of this robot are that it can help me improve speed, reflexes and techniques.”

Sathiyan also expressed his disappointment at the Olympics being postponed to take place next year and insisted he could impress in the games next year if he keeps his game up.

He said: “It is disappointing but the entire world has come to a grinding halt due to that but that’s how it is. We would have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by April in the single’s category had things been normal. If I continue to play the way I am, then I think I have a chance in the Tokyo Olympics.”

The Indian table-tennis star is somewhat worried that this blank period could impact his momentum, but insists that he can’t get physically drained when the games start at a rapid pace once again.

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran explained, “If you’ve seen my career then I am someone who has made comebacks strongly within a gap of a month or two after going down. I don’t take too long to revive because (my) basics are strong. I continuously discuss with my coach Raman sir regularly and he guides me to make the required adjustments. You’ll normally do badly if you are under pressure or physically drained.

“I feel more than coming to a peak will probably be much easier if I am already doing my visualisation technique. Therefore, my focus is on keeping myself mentally connected to the sport.

“The difficult part would be that the physical load might go up because they’ll bombard you with a lot of tournaments when things return to normalcy. The ITTF will be forced to organise the tournaments frequently and understandably so, and this is where we’ll have to be cautious and not get us physically drained.”

Finally, he also explained upon how he’s keeping himself mentally fit during this uncertain period. He said, “have the mental strength and conditioning coach and constantly discuss with him on ways to keep myself mentally strong. I have always tried to focus on the stroke rather than looking at the stature or ranking of my opponent.”

“If you are focussing on the stroke and not bothered about the person in front of you then you have better chances of doing well and not getting intimidated by his reputation. Of course, it is easier said than done, but that’s what I am focussing at,” Sathiyan Gnanasekaran concluded.

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