Surat is the 8th most populous city in India. This busy city is famous for diamond polishing and textiles. In the heart of the town is a two-storied building. A family of doctors lives here. Vikas is an Ophthalmologist, and Kalpana is an Ayurvedacharya. Their son has given fresh hopes for Indian sport. Yes, we are talking about table tennis prodigy, Manav Thakkar.
Manav was born in 1999. The only child faced a lot of taunts in his school. The reason was simple. In the town of businessmen, it was odd to hold the ambition of becoming a professional player.
His parents were fully supportive of his tough call. Both were players in their teen years. Barely at the age of 5, Manav got his first introduction with sport at home. He was quite diminutive. But as his height increased, he started returning the ball with confidence.
Sufaiz Table Tennis academy was at a 5-minute ride from home. In- charge of the academy was Malubhaiwala. Initially, he declined his admission. Vikas pressed hard, and the coach succumbed to his talent. For five years, wonder boy spent all non-school hours in training. Even holidays were not spared.
Stunning success followed. 10-year-boy won the Triple Crown in a state ranking tournament. He annexed the cadet (under-12), sub-junior (under-15) and junior (under-18) titles. Next year, he rose to No. 2 position in the nation among the cadet boys. Petroleum Sports Promotion Board Academy spotted his talent. At the age of 12, he moved to PSPB Academy in Ajmer. Under the wings of Chinese coach Yin Wei, his talent exploded. Two years after joining, he emerged as a sensation in the circuit. In 2013, he stunned invincible A Amalraj in an inter-oil tournament. A few months later, he became sub-junior and junior singles national champion.
In the final of North America Open in Canada, his opponent was Martin Bentacor. The pressure of the summit clash was heavy on 19-year-old. Veteran Achanta Sharath Kamal encouraged him and said just to enjoy the moments. It clicked in his mind, and Argentine was routed by 11-3, 11-5, 11-6. Thus, Manav became only the fourth Indian to win an Under-21 Tour event.
He became the first Indian to be ranked number one in the world in the Under 18 category. In August, he earned a spot in the Asian Games team. In the men’s team event, he claimed the bronze. After a month, at the Asian championship, he tasted his first victory over a top 50 player. Japanese Kazuhiro Yoshimura was his victim.
Sadly, in the Youth Olympics, he lost in the round of 16 to World number 5 Tomokazu Harimoto.
Seniors were happy to have him in their company. But Manav, shy by nature, took some time. After spending a few days and having lively interactions, ‘Shah Rukh Khan Fan’ is now settled. Harmeet Desai also hails from the same city. The success of both Desai and Thakkar has started the winds of change. Table tennis academies have proliferated. Ping pong is a new obsession in ‘Diamond city of the world.’
His reading of the game is quite astute. The reaction is his biggest strength. He is a master of mixing patterns that confuses the opponent’s mind. With age on his side, we expect that he can carry the burden of expectations. He wants to be a top-20 player in the world in ten years. All believe that he can.
Stay Rackonnected and learn more about sports