Akula Sreeja, the new queen of Indian table tennis

Posted: Posted Date – 11:45 PM, Mon – 25 Apr 22

Akula Sreeja with her coach Somnath Ghosh (left) and physical trainer Hirak Bagchi.

Hyderabad: It has been nearly six decades since a table tennis player from Hyderabad became a national champion. It was Mir Khasim Ali who won the first national title in 1964. And since then he was the only one in the club.

But on Monday, after a gaping gap of 58 years, another Hyderabadi became national champions. Akula Sreeja, 23, defeated Mouma Das to win the women’s title. She also etched her name in history as the only woman from the two Telugu-speaking states to have achieved the feat.

The youngster is delighted with her first title. “I’m delighted. I still can’t believe I won the national title. I didn’t expect to win. But I worked hard for it,” said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Having worked hard with coach Somnath Ghosh for over 10 years, Sreeja dedicated his victory to his coaches. “I want to dedicate this to my coaches Somnath Ghosh and my physical trainer Hirak Bagchi. I have been training with Somnath sir for over 10 years and I am waiting for this moment.

“This win is a big boost ahead of the Commonwealth Games. There are a few international tournaments coming up next and that gives me a lot of confidence. I will also be able to play many international tournaments now because I will be part of the Indian team. I want to focus on improving my international ranking,” she revealed.

Sreeja entered the tournament as India’s No. 1 ranked player and put in dominating performances. Speaking about the tournament, she said: “All the matches were tough. But I stayed focused. The semi-final clash (Ayhika Mukherjee) was the most difficult.

She also made the day more memorable by winning the doubles title with Ayhika Mukherjee. Speaking of the doubles gold medal, she said, “We haven’t practiced a lot. She stays in Bengal and I stay in Hyderabad. But we had good discussions during the match and we got along well. It also helped us do well in doubles.

However, she said the win came as no surprise. “We won inter-facility doubles earlier. It gave us great confidence. We knew then that we were playing a good match and we knew each other’s game very well.

Meanwhile, of his ward’s achievement, his coach Somnath Ghosh said: “Becoming a national champion is something else. It’s the most beautiful day of my life. I’ve been waiting for this for 10 years. We worked hard for this result.

He also revealed that she was playing with a different rubber than in the quarter-finals and needed courage. “During the tournament, she came to me and told me that she would like to change the rubber. To do that during the national tournament takes a lot of courage,” he revealed.

He also thanked the Minister of Municipal Administration and Urban Development, KT Rama Rao, IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan, who led him to coach state players in South Central Railway deputation, and Amarnath Reddy and Prakash Raju for their support.

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