The 2018 Commonwealth Games was one of India’s most successful Commonwealth Games campaigns ever. The Indian contingent came 3rd in the medals tally 66 medals overall- 26 golds, 20 silvers and 20 bronzes. Among the stars who shined, paddler Manika Batra was way ahead of the Indian contingent in terms of winning medals and performing in both team and individual events.
In terms of both number of medals and number of golds, this was India’s third most successful Commonwealth Games campaign. The Indian contingent excelled in a number of sports throughout the competition but one contingent that stood out was the table tennis team who won a total of 8 medals- three golds, 2 silvers and 3 bronzes.
Manika Batra Biography and playing career
Out of the three gold medals in TT, only one came in the singles category and it was from Manika Batra. Let’s take a look at the rise of India’s latest table tennis sensation.
- Born in Delhi, Manika Batra was the youngest of three children and started to play table-tennis at the tender age of 4. Her elder sister and brother both played table tennis too with the former being an influence on Manika during her early playing days.
- After she won a match at a state level under-8 tournament, Batra caught the eye of a coach named Sandeep Gupta. Talking about Manika Batra school, she advised by the coach to enrol in the Hans Raj Model School where he ran his academy.
- Batra gradually began to excel in table tennis and she received a scholarship at the Academy of World Championship-winning Swedish player Peter Karlsson. But she had eventually refused.
- During her teens, Batra also received some modelling offers but her heart and mind was fixed on table tennis.
- Batra appeared at the 2011 U-21 Chile Open and won the silver medal at the tournament.
Manika Batra Profile in senior circuit
Three years later, Manika Batra represented India at the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Glasgow where she received a bye to the second round of the knockout stages.
In her first match of the tournament, Manika Batra defeated New Zealand’s Annie Yang in straight games. She followed this by defeating Canada’s Luo Anqi to reach the quarter-finals. Manika Batra thus became the first Indian female paddler to reach the quarter-finals of the Commonwealth Games.
In the quarter-finals, Batra was beaten by eventual bronze medallist Lin Ye of Singapore. However, she put up a tough fight and the match went to the final game.
Batra then competed at the Asian Games at Incheon where she received a bye to the second round. In the second round, Batra defeated Macau’s Ma Chao In before being shown the door by eventual quarter-finalist Kasumi Ishikawa.
In 2015, Manika Batra took part in the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships where she won the silver in the Women’s Team event and the Doubles event as well and won bronze in the Women’s Singles event.
That year, she took part in her maiden World Championships at Suzhou, China. In the first round, the 20-year old Batra was up against Japan’s Miu Hirano who was seeded 24th. Batra won the first game but Hirano won four games in a row to win the match. Manika Batra also featured in the Mixed Doubles category alongside Sanil Shetty. However, they were beaten by the 7th seeded Chinese Taipei pair of Chen Chien-an and Chen Szu-yu in the first round.
The following year, Batra won three gold medals at the South Asian Games at Guwahati, winning in the Women’s Doubles tournament, the Mixed Doubles tournament and the Women’s team event. She won the silver in the Women’s Singles tournament as she was defeated by experienced compatriot Mouma Das in the final.
Manika Batra goes in the big League
A couple of months later, Batra had one of the proudest moments of her career when she qualified for the Rio Olympics by winning the South Asia Group of the Asian Olympic qualifier. Manika Batra was seeded 52nd at the Olympics and was beaten in the first round by Poland’s Katarzyna Grzybowska who was ranked 16 places above her. Batra was beaten by the score of 12-10, 6-11, 12-14, 11-8, 4-11, 12-14.
In 2017, Batra competed in her second World Championships at Dusseldorf. Batra was seeded 58th in the Women’s Singles tournament and registered an easy win over Poland’s Klaudia Kusinska in the first round. In the second round, she was up against South Korea’s Kim Kyung Ah who was seeded 27th. Batra began well by taking the first game 11-3 before her opponent breezed past her in the next four games to take the match.
In the Women’s Doubles tournament, Batra partnered Mouma Das and the 13th seeded pair began by beating the Norwegian pair of Ilka Doval and Maja Gjelle in the first round. They then defeated the 18th seeded Russian pair of Yana Noskova and Mariia Taliakova in the next round after losing the first two games.
The pair created a major upset by defeating last tournament’s bronze medallists- the Chinese-Dutch and Chinese-Polish pair of Li Jie and Li Qian. Batra and Das won all four games by a score of 11-0 to reach the quarter-finals. In the quarter-finals, the pair was comprehensively beaten by eventual champions Ning Ding and Liu Shiwen of China.
Manika Batra – The making of a legend at Commonwealth Games 2018
Then came the Commonwealth Games 2018. There was a lot of expectations from the 22-year old Batra who was seeded 4th in the Women’s Singles tournament. Batra began the tournament by defeating Australia’s Tracy Feng in the round of 16 before beating 7th seeded Singaporean Zhou Yihan to reach the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, Batra was up against defending champ and top seed Feng Tianwei of Singapore. In a thrilling encounter, Batra stunned Feng 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 5-11, 5-11, 11-9, 13-11 to reach the final and become the first ever female CWG medallist for India in Table Tennis. In the final, she defeated 2014’s silver medallist Yu Mengyu in straight games to win the gold medal.
In the Women’s Doubles Tournament, Batra once again partnered Mouma Das and they reached the final where they were beaten by reigning champs Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu. In the Women’s team tournament, Manika Batra led India to an unexpected gold medal by beating four-time reigning champions Singapore in the final.
Manika Batra has given Indian Table Tennis one of its finest hours and she herself has been in pretty good form lately. The Delhiite is currently ranked 58th in the world. After clinching the gold in the Commonwealth Games 2018, Batra will now be aiming for a gold at the Asian Games.
Of course, that won’t be a walk in the park because players from China and Japan (who have 8 of the top 10 Women’s players in the world) will also be competing. However, Batra has proven that she isn’t a towel dropper and she will certainly give the top players a run for their money.
Provided Manika Batra persists working hard, then she might one day become World No.1 and maybe give India a Table Tennis medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.