Kolkata, March 6: Elated after reaching a historic career-best World ranking of 28, paddler G. Sathiyan has now set his eyes on climbing to 15th in the ladder by the year end. This is the best ranking achieved by an Indian in singles.
"I am on track. My next aim is to make it to the top 15 in the rankings by the end of this year," Sathiyan told IANS in a telephonic interview.
Sathiyan's rankings shot up thanks to a series of fine performances over a period of 12 months, beginning February, 2018 (the best eight are taken for consideration). They include the Qatar Open (reached the round of 16), Hong Kong and Korea Open (round of 32), Australian Open (round of 16), and Austrian Open (round of 16).
The Chennai player also won an Asian Games bronze. Sathiyan's upset wins over Marcos Freitas, Jeong Sangeun (Austrian Open), Oshima Yuya (Qatar Open), Kenta Matsudaira, Ueda Jin (Asian Games), Gao Ning, Andrej Gacina and Emmanuel Lebesson (all in World championships) gave him the confidence to push his game further up.
Asked what worked for him, Sathiyan said besides the technical aspects of the game, he worked on his mental state and that helped.
"I was probably thinking too much about the results earlier. Since 2015, that has changed and I have started benefitting from the small gains. Now I go into any tournament with the frame of mind that if I have trained well, it has to come good. You might fail in one or two matches, but it will eventually come good.
"I was happy that I could perform in big games," said Sathiyan, who also played an integral part in the Indian men's team's best-ever 13th-place finish at the World Team Championships in Sweden last year.
Sathiyan said as a team, India's next aim will be to do well in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
"The next aim will be the Tokyo Olympics. That is the only remaining box to be ticked by the table tennis contingent. We are working really hard.
"This (2019) is a really crucial year. Before the Olympics, we have the Asian and Commonwealth Championships. We need to perform well as a team to get the rankings up. If we get a good draw,
probably we will play the team Olympic qualification in January 2020. So we need to prepare quite hard," Sathiyan said.
India have never qualified as a team for the Olympics. The first world team qualification for the Olympics is in January next year.
"This is our best chance to qualify with me and Sharath at the top of our game. Harmeet (Desai) is also playing well. So if we have a good draw, we really have a very good chance to qualify."
Sathiyan said he trained with the Hong Kong national team and the experience was great. His next target, individually, will also be to do well in Pro Tours.
"Playing more Pro Tours is an aim this year and I wish to play more of them to get the rankings up.
"I will be looking at playing somewhere around 12-13 Pro Tours atleast.
"A lot of credit needs to go to Raman sir (coach) and physio Ramji Srinivasan. While the government helps financially, a little more money is needed for that to happen," he signed off.