DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition : 2019-02-11

FRONT PAGE : 11 : 11


SP RT 11 MUMBAI MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2019 DAILY NEWS & ANALYSIS I I www.dnaindia.com twitter.com/dna epaper.dnaindia.com facebook.com/dnaindia I I I HOT ON HEELS The making of Rutvick Mehta in the world rankings, which scaled not only his personal high but also the best ever by an Indian paddler at world No. 28 last month. Yet, it wasn’t just a fundamental change in approach to his playing style that did the trick. The Chennai man, who is also an engineer, made a conscious decision to alter his personality to blend with his newfound aggressive game. “There was a total mindset change, not only towards the game but also in my routine, in my family, everything,” Sathiyan tells “I always used to have a safe approach in my day-today life, an astute mindset, coming from a middle-class academic-driven family. But I started taking more risks even with small things in my daily life. I began taking all decisions quickly,” he adds. The paradigm shift came about in 2015, when Sathiyan’s father lost a prolonged battle with cancer. “It had a big impact on me,” Sathiyan says. “I thought, when something like this can happen to a person who is very disciplined — my father had but you strive to be on par with him. “Even as a team if you want to perform better, everyone has to try and be at the same level. And when someone has set a standard, I really want to support him, match that standard and help the team win a medal. In that sense, you have to pump up to what he’s playing and hit the top form and keep pushing the limits,” Sathiyan says. The age gap between the two might be 10 years but they share an open relationship, both on and off the court, with the sole aim of taking Indian table tennis to greater highs. “He is a great senior, helping us all out. And when I’m playing better, then he takes advice from me. We know how to be a friend off the court and a fierce competitor on the court and keep that relationship going,” Sathiyan says. “Sharath is 10 years elder to me. I’ve seen him win his first Commonwealth Games medal when I was just 13 years old. So, it’s really unfair to compare Sharath and my achievements because he’s done it all, while I’ve just started the graph,” he says. The graph is on the upswing, and Sathiyan has now set his sights on breaking into the top 20 and top 15 of the world rankings. But that again is a bar he has set for the outside world, like his 2020 Tokyo Olympics medal assertions. In his mind, he wants to stick to being Sathiyan 2.0. “Just enjoy the game, not run behind the rankings,” he says. “Play the way I’m playing for the next decade. Keep playing gutsy, keep playing fearless.” no wrong habits, never drank, nothing. “After his demise, I changed as a person. I was always worried about the future. I was a person who was always calculative: what is going to come next, and if I do this, what will happen next. Because dad was always like that, making savings etc. “But I felt like when there’s no guarantee to what’s going to happen tomorrow, what’s the point in calculating so much? If there is no guarantee for life, what is the guarantee for what is going to happen in sport? “So, I started working without thinking too much about the end result, calculating too much, or knowing where I am going to go. I just wanted to go out there, play, and enjoy myself. “From thereon, it was a totally different me. That nothing-to-lose attitude really worked for me in my game,” he adds. The though process reflected in the way Sathiyan dealt with people verbally. “I thought, if you want to win an Olympic medal, you also have to talk like that. Earlier, when people asked me, I used to say, ‘We have a slight chance at the Olympics’. But now, I say, ‘We’re definitely going to get an Olympic medal’,” he says. It was Sathiyan 2.0 — from conservative to flamboyant, from Ghazal to Gully Boy — not just as player, but also as a person. And, it was working. Sathiyan clinched his maiden Pro Tour singles title at the 2016 Belgium Open, becoming the first Indian to win a Pro Tour crown in Europe. He was placed 152 in the world then, and has since climbed the steep rankings ladder swiftly, picking up a Commonwealth Games gold and a historic Asian Games medal last year, leading the Indian men’s team to glory along with the veteran Sharath Kamal. [email protected] Sathiyan India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran had a rather straightforward philosophy for a large part of his table tennis career: “If your opponent plays 100 balls, you play 101”. He, however, quickly realised that just being safe with his game wasn’t good enough at the international stage, and that quality mattered more than quantity. The self-analysis led to the 26-year-old developing a more aggressive game style over the last few years. The process saw him rise steadfastly Mumbai: Healthy competition with Sharath Kamal Sathiyan lost to his senior teammate in a highly-competitive National final last month, and the two have been engaged in a neck and neck rankings race lately, with Sharath currently five spots below his compatriot after being India’s best-ranked paddler for the longest time of his over-a-decade career. Sathiyan likes to label it a compelling race more than a competitive one. “We have been pushing each other in a healthy way, in the sense that I have been playing good, then Sharath has been playing better, then I have been playing even better,” Sathiyan says. “We both are breaking ranking records every month. It’s fascinating for us as well as Indian table tennis and the fans. People are always excited seeing a Federer-nadal final, isn’t it?” he adds. And just like Rafael Nadal compelled Roger Federer to become a better tennis player and vice-versa during the different phases of the duo’s epic rivalry, Sathiyan believes the healthy competition between him and Sharath is constantly raising both their games. “If you have that healthy competition, it definitely helps you become better. You’re always trying to push yourself. It’s not that you want to be better than him (Sharath), DNA. Chennai paddler, who has scaled Indian table tennis’ highest-ever ranking, reveals how his father’s demise brought about a change in his personality and thereby his game 28 The current world ranking of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the highest ever achieved by any Indian paddler. The previous best was by Sharath Kamal, who was ranked 30th N ZONE 20 No. of games Tottenham have won this season. Only in their title-winning campaign of 1960-61 have they ever won more after first 26 games 1 2 3 Send in your answers to [email protected] Names of the first 10 winners will be published tomorrow

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