Akula Sreeja. She is one of the new faces of table tennis from Andhra Pradesh expected to go to places, if only she sustains the desired interest, commitment and the willingness to keep improving.
Just a few yards from the buzzling streets approaching the Taj Krishna Hotel, a group of talented young paddlers try to hone their skills at Global Table Tennis Academy (GTTA) under the watchful guidance of ‘active’ State player Somnath Ghosh (who prefers to be called a mentor with a big smile on his face).
And, clearly standing tall amongst this group is Sreeja, who played a significant role in the Andhra Pradesh team winning the team silver in the Youth Nationals in Indore. For the record, the other members of the team include Nikat Bhanu, Karnam Spoorthy and Naina Jaiswal.
Sreeja, known for her powerful backhand tap, has a rich medal haul this year – winning six in all in the Sub-junior, junior and Youth Nationals. For someone who admires Poulomi Ghatak, Sreeja’s passion for table tennis was understandable given the fact that her elder sister Akula Ravali was a regular before Intermediate exams forced to take a break and even Sreeja’s father Praveen Kumar, a senior manager in the General Insurance firm, was a table tennis player.
Interestingly, this potential champion girl’s mother Sai Sudha, who works in LIC, is also an active member of GTTA promoting young talent in her own way.
Somnath, the mentor of India No. 3 in sub-juniors, believes that she has a terrific backhand and is now focussing on using the soft rubber in essaying her trademark forehand strokes for better results. “Right now she is more comfortable with this stroke using the pimpled rubber. But I am trying to impress upon her that unless she gets used to the soft rubber, she may not go a long way in the international circuit,” he explains. With growing stamina and fitness levels, Sreeja is in the mood to script new chapters. The 14-year-old, 10th standard student of Rosary Convent School is justifiably dreaming big. “I want to be a National champion one day,” she says with typical shyness for her age.
Some of the big wins for AP No.1 sub-junior player, Sreeja, included one over top-ranked Petroleum Sports Promotion Board player Manika Batra to take the State team into the team event final in the Indore Youth Nationals recently.
Ever since she started winning medals at the national-level three years ago, Sreeja has been making a steady progress and yet staying away from the limelight. She, perhaps, is more keen to let the performances talk about her.