By Bharat Sharma, New Delhi, Jan 17 IANS | 9 months ago

India's newly-crowned table tennis national champion Sanil Shetty has set himself a goal for 2014 -- breaking into the top 150 of the world rankings by the end of the year.


Shetty, 24, feels he was primed to win the coveted domestic title after the disappointments in the last three editions, losing in the quarters twice before making the semis last year.

Doing wonders to his morale was a win against Germany's World No.76 Philus Ruwen in the German Open and a stint at former world champion Peter Karlsson's academy in Sweden, both in November.

"I went to the nationals this time well prepared. And the moment I broke the jinx of not going past the quarterfinal stage, I knew I could go all the way. The title should do a world of good to my international career," Shetty told IANS from Mumbai, referring to his last eight win against G. Sathiyan before he beat Sharath Kamal's conqueror, Harmeet Desai, in the final in Patna last week.

The left-handed player, who held a table tennis racquet as a nine-year-old overcoming a heart condition, has risen from 438 to be 281 in the world rankings over the last two years. Shetty attributes his rise to good international exposure.

"I visited Sweden twice in the last two years and played in several ITTF Pro Tour tournaments. I took part in six of them in 2013 and this year I am looking at eight or nine top meets. Even a win or two in bigger events gives you a big push in the rankings," says the lanky paddler who rates his U-21 title in the US in 2010 his biggest.

Shetty is candid enough to admit that he has a long way to go to get anywhere near Sharath Kamal, who at World No.50, remains the lone Indian in the top 100.

"I need to get stronger physically to have more power in my game. Add to it, I must have a solid backhand, and I have been working on both," says Shetty, who is known for his expansive forehand drives.

The Bharat Petroleum employee is hoping to play for a club in Europe, like Sharath, Desai, Soumyajit Ghosh and Anthony Amalraj have been doing.

"It will be great if I could play overseas regularly, preferably in Germany, Poland or Sweden. I have given my name to the agent, let's see if things work out for better after the national title," says Shetty, who also has his sights set on the Asian and Commonwealth Games later in the year.

Shetty draws inspiration from China's reigning World and Olympic Champion Zhang Jike and sees a role model in tennis great Rafael Nadal.

"I wish I could get physically and mentally as strong as Nadal," he says as he signs off.

(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at bharat.s@ians.in)

(Posted on 17-01-2014)

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