I am mentally strong and I’ll remain that way, says Manika Batra

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Hours after she ended her second Olympic journey by becoming the first Indian female paddler to win two singles rounds in Olympics, Manika Batra opened up about the last fortnight that has kept her in the headlines, not just for her exploits on the table.

How have the last eight days been?

Overall, it went really well, but not today. If you compare my stint in first Olympics (in 2016), I am — not satisfied, but — really happy with my performance over here. My aim is 2024, so I have to train harder once I return. I am really happy with the way I played against the higher-ranked Ukrainian (Margaryta Pesotska, 20th seed and World No. 32) in the second round.

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What went wrong in mixed doubles?

They (Lin Yu Jun and Cheng I Ching) are a real strong opponent. They are World No. 1, were seeded third over here but they are really strong. The boy (Lin) was just way too fast and had a strong ball. He was attacking relentless. We did try and put up our best (but, it wasn’t enough).

Against Sofia Polcanova today (Monday), you never looked to be in the game…

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Yes, I think my game and my mind weren’t on the same page. I was a bit nervous and perhaps expected too much from myself. Of course, you have to aim higher but I think I tried way too hard. I think I was desperate to win rather than enjoying the game. I will blame myself on that. I should have enjoyed myself and taken it point by point.

The Team Leader of the table tennis contingent (M.P. Singh) has said that you refused to let national coach Soumyadeep Roy sit for your matches. Your response?

I think sometimes it’s portrayed wrongly. Roy da is Sutirtha’s (Sutirtha Mukherjee) personal coach and Sanmay (Paranjape, Manika’s personal coach) was in the gallery. Sanmay knows my game and I would prefer that Sanmay would advise me (in singles). Once that didn’t happen, I thought I would play alone since Sanmay and I were devising strategies ahead of every match and he was also telling me from the gallery.

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So was there an ego issue between you and Roy?

He sat for our mixed doubles match. Later, he asked me and I told him I would play alone. He was fine with it. He didn’t say anything. I don’t know if anyone said anything in the media but it’s okay. I am mentally strong and I’ll remain that way only.

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