A long road ahead

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Did you know that 19-year-old R. Abishek is in the No.1 spot in the Tamil Nadu Table Tennis Association ranking list?

Under the watchful eyes of committed coaches Christopher Anas and Nagam Prasad, R. Abishek has matured into a paddler of substance. The 19-year-old has displayed verve, imagination and alacrity in the twelve State-ranking table tennis tournaments held in the city and districts so far. The lone defensive player in Tamil Nadu has clinched five titles that have put him in the No.1 spot in the Tamil Nadu Table Tennis Association ranking list. Known to be a defensive player with limited attacking skills, Abishek has worked on his game diligently and has added offence to his arsenal. This season, he defeated all the State top players, including R. Rajesh, A. Rajath Kamal and G. Vinodh.Last year, Abishek's performance was not something to write home about. He finished 10th in the State. Says Anas, "In 2004-end, he was afflicted with jaundice, and in 2005, he didn't participate in many tournaments as he was attending National camps." From the start of this season, Abishek worked towards his goal. Beginning his day with exercises at the Marina Beach with friends Samson and Sivananda Seshadri and practice sessions at the Lord's Table Tennis Academy, Abishek's skills have improved. "After each win, I felt good. Overall, I think my confidence level has gone up. My finishing is a lot better now," says Abishek.The race for the top spot in Tamil Nadu is gaining heat what with merely 40 points separating Abishek and Rajath (placed second). With three more tournaments to go, Abishek, a Loyola College student, is sure to finish within the top 3. There is a marked improvement in the way he approaches rallies. Against Rajath Kamal in the final of one of the ranking tournaments, Abishek's defence was of top-class. Not only was he able to put more balls on the table, for every smash of Rajath, Abishek's chopping and blocking made Rajath's task more difficult, frustrating him into committing errors. The International tournaments he has taken part in have only added to his perspective and vision. He rates the win against a seeded player Chen Chi Ming of Chinese Taipei in the World junior championship in Austria last year as his best.From here, what is the road ahead for Abishek? Prasad says, "We want him to do well in National zonals, make a couple of upsets this year. But next year, we are confident he'll deliver."Ranked between 20 and 25 at the Nationals, Abishek wants to break into the top 10 by the end of this year. At a time when there is a dearth of good defensive paddlers, Abishek's fine performance in the zonals and the National championship will, perhaps, see a resurgence of a tribe which is fast becoming extinct. K. KEERTHIVASAN




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