Indian table tennis elevated its status at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast as paddlers from the country won a total of eight medals from nine events to finish at the top of the tally. And heading into the 2022 edition of the quadrennial games in Birmingham, expectations from India’s players will be a lot higher than they were the last time around.

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, who was one of the key players for India at Gold Coast, believes the squad has prepared well over the past few months. In a conversation with, the 29-year-old said the competition could be tougher in Birmingham but that is a challenge the Indians are eager to face.

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Indian table tennis squad for CWG 2022

Men Women
Sharath Kamal Manika Batra
G Sathiyan Sreeja Akula
Harmeet Desai Reeth Rishya
Sanil Shetty Diya Chitale
Manush Shah (reserve) Swastika Ghosh (reserve)

Sathiyan, ranked 35 in the world, has been active on the World Table Tennis Tour to hone his skills. He recently defeated European champion Darko Jorgic at the WTT Contender Zagreb in June. He was the only Indian to feature at the WTT Champions European Summer Series, having made the cut based on his rankings. He went down in a thriller in the round of 32 against World No 27 Kirill Gerassimenko.

A live-wire in the arena, Sathiyan remains confident of his chances heading into Birmingham. He reflected on his preparation, the improvements in his game, dealing with pressure, and more.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

How has the preparation been for the Commonwealth Games?

It’s been really good. We had a training camp in Portugal for a week, which was great. Portugal is close to Birmingham, so training out there helped us get acclimatised to the weather conditions, time zone, etc. Training together as a team was important, we did a lot of doubles drills and worked closely with coach Raman sir. I had some great match practice with Sharath [Kamal] and Manika [Batra], we are looking in good shape and complimenting each other’s game. We then played a couple of tournaments in Budapest, I got some good wins in singles and Manika and I reached the semifinals in mixed doubles. So I think it has been a good build-up to the Commonwealth Games, we have trained hard and also got match practice. We even had a camp in Bangalore earlier. So yeah, we’ve been in Europe for some time now and are used to the conditions. Of course, we always want to have more tournaments but I think overall it has been a very good preparation going into Birmingham.

Are there any particular things you have tried to improve in your game over the past few months?

I think I’ve done really well post the Tokyo Olympics, I’ve seen a lot of footage of my game and tried to improve little things. I have tried to bring a more aggressive style into my game. I’ve been a consistent rally player in general but Raman sir and I figured that if I want to break into the top 20 and take my game to the next level, aggression along with consistency is the key. I have also worked on my serve and receive, that is a key area and I think I have made improvements. I’ve worked on becoming more aggressive at the beginning of a rally. I’m very good when the rally begins and at baseline play, but it was important to bring more efficiency and aggression in the serve, receive and first ball. I also worked hard on my fitness… to be more aggressive and hit the ball harder you need to be fit. So we have touched every aspect of my game, including the mental side of things. I’ve had success in the past few months and that gave me a lot of confidence. Beating top 10 players like Darko is a great sign heading towards an important event like the Commonwealth Games.

What are your thoughts on the competition you will have to face at the CWG this time?

The competition will certainly be quite tough this time around. Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri is a top 10 player and England’s Liam Pitchford is in the top 20. England have a solid team and we are going to play them on their home so they’ll definitely be the team to beat, especially in men’s. And with Nigeria, Aruna is very dangerous and one of the best players in the world. England and Nigeria might pose the biggest threat to India but there are good teams all around and we cannot take anyone lightly. India, of course, is right up there with the best. We are the defending champions (men’s and women’s team events) so there is a lot of confidence. We know we have done well in the past. Our men’s team especially is very experienced, the same team won the gold medal the last time*. So yes, the competition will most likely be tougher than it was the last time but we’re ready for the challenge.

Indian table tennis did incredibly well at the last CWG. Does that add to the pressure this time around?

Well, you can’t brush side the pressure. I always say that pressure is a privilege to have because it means you are good and people have expectations from you. The better you get, the more people start expecting and the pressure increases. We just need to handle it the right way. I think as a team we have handled it very well in the past at big events… taking it as a challenge. There will always be external factors which you can’t control, but we as a team always look to take one match at a time. We think we delivered a historic performance the last time and it will certainly be very difficult to match that, but if we can manage to win around six medals this time around it will be a fantastic result. So there will be pressure but I certainly believe we have a strong chance of doing well in every event, be it singles, doubles or team events. We’ll just try to play how we have been playing at big events.

Have you set any personal goal for yourself?

I want to win a medal in all four events, especially in singles. That’s one of my personal goals. The last time I won three medals but not in singles. We have a great chance in all the events, if we can match the tally from last time it will be fantastic. But that will certainly be very, very difficult because of the tougher competition now from the likes of England, Nigeria and Singapore. I would say even if we win five to six medals it will be a fantastic result for Team India.

*Clarification: The men’s team is nearly the same with Anthony Amalraj not there this time around. But the four main players are expected to be G Sathiyan, Achanta Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty.