It’s been a challenging couple of months for Manika Batra. After a memorable Commonwealth Games campaign in 2018, a lot was expected from her this year in Birmingham but the results didn’t go her way. Having dealt with the pressure of expectations and the disappointment thereafter, the 27-year-old is now looking forward to a strong showing at the National Games.

Batra was one of the standout players for India at CWG 2018, winning gold medals in the women’s singles and women’s team events, silver in women’s doubles and bronze in mixed doubles. However, at CWG 2022, she couldn’t finish on the podium in any of her events.

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In a media interaction on Tuesday ahead of the National Games, where she will be playing for Delhi in the individual event, Batra said she has had time to reflect on what went wrong for her in Birmingham and remains confident of turning things around. First up for her is the National Games in Gujarat followed by the World Team Table Tennis Championships, which will be held from September 30 to October 9 in Chengdu, China.

Here are excerpts from the interaction with Batra:

On dealing with the disappointment of CWG 2022

The year 2018 was amazing for me. I even played really well this year before CWG and beat some good players. And even in Birmingham, I think I played my best but there are constant ups and downs in a player’s life. It’s not like everything is finished just because I didn’t win a medal at the Commonwealth Games. I analysed my mistakes and what went wrong and have worked hard since then. I feel confident now heading into the upcoming tournaments and let’s see what happens.

Of course, I was sad and upset after I lost in the Commonwealth Games. But I always tell myself that this is not the end and I have to keep working hard. That is really important for every athlete, to not think that it’s all over if you lose a match. I’d say you should get back to training and not worry about what others are saying. The focus should be on trying to improve and I did just that. My coach and I analysed the mistakes and areas to improve, we worked on my game and fitness. Now I think I’m ready both mentally and physically to give my best again.

After CWG, I focussed more on my mental strength which is very important for big tournaments.

On improving her game post CWG 2022

I played well at CWG 2022 but couldn’t win a medal, that’s okay and I’m now looking forward to the National Games and then the World Championships. There are several little things in my game that I’m working on with my coach. The mistakes I made in the last few months or the times I couldn’t get to the ball – I’ve been working on these things and let’s see how it goes because matches are of course different from practice. I’m hoping for the best.

On playing with her pimpled racquet

I will not leave my pimpled bats as I have got used to them. I think this is my game and I love it.

On her preparations for the National Games

National Games are just as important as any other tournament. Of course, I have worked on the mistakes I made at CWG 2022. There are ups and downs in every athlete’s career so I just forgot about it and focussed on my training after returning from Birmingham. I’ve had some good practice with my coach and sparring partner and feel confident going forward.

I started preparing for the National Games immediately after CWG. I don’t think my preparation before the last National Games was good enough. And the youngsters who will be competing this time are really good, so I’m motivated to do well and perform at my best. Then there’s the World Championships too and the back-to-back tournaments could get tiring but I’m confident.