These three luminaries have etched their names in the history, not merely as players but as architects of a new era for Indian table tennis.
There are athletes driven by their unwavering passion for the game. Others are fueled by a profound sense of representing their nation on the field. Then there are those exceptional players who have not just participated but have woven the destiny of their country within the sporting history, shaping its fortunes through their remarkable achievements. India boasts a cadre of table tennis players who have played pivotal roles in elevating the sport's status within the nation. Among them stand the stellar individuals who have significantly contributed to the growth and recognition of table tennis in India. Here's a showcase of three of the finest table tennis players the country has produced.
Without a doubt, Manika Batra reigns as India's table tennis sensation, drawing attention consistently over recent years. Her journey commenced at age four, inspired by watching her older siblings wield paddles, and she swiftly joined in, marking the start of her exceptional journey. Her initial international triumph arrived at 16 during the Chile Open's Under-21 category, securing a silver medal in 2011. Despite bowing out in the quarter-finals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, her potential shone brightly. Continual growth characterized her career, evident in clinching three medals at the Commonwealth table tennis championships, including a women’s singles bronze a year later. The pinnacle came at Gold Coast 2018, where she not only contributed to India's stunning victory against Singapore but also clinched the historic singles title, setting a new milestone for Indian female athletes. She reached the round of 32 at the Tokyo Olympics and secured India's first World Table Tennis title in mixed doubles. In April 2022, she and Archana Girish Kamath achieved a world No. 4 ranking in women's doubles, a first for Indian table tennis.
Sharath Kamal, a stalwart on the global table tennis stage for nearly 20 years, holds an esteemed position in Indian table tennis. He boasts a legacy of achievements: 10 national championships, the first Indian ITTF Pro Tour title, and the inaugural Commonwealth Games singles gold. Starting young under the guidance of his father, Srinivas Rao, he soared in 2004 with an international win in Malaysia. His pinnacle moment came at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, securing the singles gold. The Commonwealth Games remained a platform of consistent success for Sharath Kamal, yielding an impressive tally of 13 medals, seven of which were gold, across five editions. His illustrious career also boasts two Asian Games bronze medals and a second ITTF Pro Tour title secured just before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season in 2020. In what could likely mark his final Olympic appearance, Sharath Kamal showcased his mettle at Tokyo 2020, notably challenging eventual champion Ma Long of China in an intense men's singles round of 32, eventually succumbing after an arduous five-game battle.
G Sathiyan swiftly emerged as a rising star in Indian table tennis alongside Sharath Kamal, despite his initial reluctance due to family expectations. Encountering coach Subramaniam Raman transformed his casual play into a professional one, leading to notable victories, notably his first ITTF Pro Tour win in Belgium in 2016. Collaborating with Kamal, he secured significant achievements like bronze and silver medals in international competitions. The turning point came in 2018, with wins at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, solidifying his presence in global leagues and earning the prestigious Arjuna Award. The Commonwealth Games in 2022 further highlighted his prowess, earning gold in the men's team event, silver in men's doubles, and bronze in men's singles, consolidating his status in global table tennis.