Meet Mannav Thakkar, the first Indian to be crowned World No. 1 in U-18 table tennis rankings

14th Feb 2018
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Manav Thakkar, teenager from Surat, Gujarat started playing table tennis when he was five years old. He was too short to even see the net or the ball, yet somehow managed to return the ball a few times. At age six, he started training under a coach.

Now 18 years old, he has made history by becoming the first Indian to be crowned World No. 1 in table tennis.

Image: India West

Five-year-old Manav was a skater when he saw his parents play table tennis at his home in Surat. Though he was shorter than the tennis board, he insisted on playing. On noticing that he was getting good at it, his parents took him to coach Vahed Malubhai for training.

Manav's talent took him to Ajmeer where Manav joined the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB). Despite having natural talent, leaving his parents made him homesick and he started losing his game soon according to Scroll. In his words,

I used to get pressurised in international or big tournaments because of the lack of experience. Plus the conditions were also different. Whenever the opponent used to get a lead, I used to mentally feel that I will lose the match. I always used to depend on my start, play aggressively and that led to errors.
Image: Scroll

However, within a few months, Manav got back on track, and slowly and steadily started winning in the U-12 and U-14 games. By 2010, he became the youngest player to bag a triple crown in state meets when he won in the cadet, sub-junior and junior levels.

In the last one year, Manav has won five gold medals in the junior nationals and was the runner-up in Thailand Open. All this ensured that he topped the charts in the U-18 category, making him the first Indian to get the honour of being World No 1.

Though he is No. 1 in the youth boys and junior boys category, he is ranked two in the men's category. And his dream is to give all it takes to attain numero uno position in the men's category as well. Talking about his areas of strength and how he would use it in attaining his goal in an interview with Times of India, he said,

I am an attacking player and am not afraid of taking risks when it matters. I go for my shots and try to put my opponents under pressure by playing the ball at their bodies. I've strong a mental makeup and I don't give up a match so easily. I always fight till the end.

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