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CWG 2022: Tough for Manika Batra to repeat last Commonwealth Games medal haul: Somdev Devvarman

Bengaluru, July 28: The stage is set for the Commonwealth Games to get underway and ahead of the multi-sport extravaganza, CWG gold-medallist Somdev Devvarman, backed the India squad to return home with a rich medal haul.

While the former Indian tennis player rued the fact that India would surely miss out on one medal, with Golden Boy Neeraj Chopra out of the fray due to injury, Somdev added that he would be surprised if PV Sindhu did not win gold.

Talking about India's chances in the racquet sports categories, Somdev said while in badminton PV Sindhu would be the clear favourite, it would be tough for Manika Batra to follow up on her superb performance from last edition.

'Surprised if Sindhu doesn't win gold'

'Surprised if Sindhu doesn't win gold'

Speaking during a media interaction, Somdev said, "I would say badminton for sure. Definitely Sindhu will go as a clear favourite. Sindhu already has a bronze and a silver from the last Commonwealth Games, so she'll be looking to one-up on that. Based on her previous performances in Singapore - it's going to be interesting to see how she handles the pressure, having a target on her back. I think she is the best player in the tournament, but she will have to obviously perform at a very high level.

"Apart from badminton there's table tennis with Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal and in squash you have Sourav, Deepika and Joshna. So in racquet sports I would like to say combined the three you could expect at least double digits. Anything above 15 is a grand success," said Somdev."

Skeptic about TT's chances

Skeptic about TT's chances

While Devvarman backed badminton to walk away with a rich medal-haul, Somdev was skeptic about table tennis' fortunes. "Coming to table tennis, Manika Batra has four medals in the last Games and also stalwarts like Sharath Kamal. But it's not going to be easy at all to match last time's haul (eight medals). Manika had four medals herself. It'll be a massive effort. It's one thing to come out here and win medals like she did the last time. But it's another thing to back it up in the next Games. There's a lot that's changed over the last four years. Keep in mind there's the team events.

"I think if there's good camaraderie, good energy in the team, then teammates tend to get the best out of you in the toughest moments. I think it'll be hard but we can still hope for the best," stated the Asian Games gold medallist.

'Pressure is a privilige'

'Pressure is a privilige'

The Indian squad head into the Birmingham Games shouldering a lot of expectations. When asked if the expectation will add added pressure, the former Indian tennis player said 'pressure is a privilege' and athletes need to learn how to perform under pressure.

"Yes it does (add pressure). But pressure is a privilege...isn't it - as the great Billie Jean King once said! Expectations going up from Indian fans is a good thing. Athletes need to learn how to perform under pressure. And if you want to be one of the best athletes in the world, pressure is something you're going to have to deal with. If you're talking about cricketers or footballers or tennis players, they've all learned how to perform under immense pressure with the world watching. The fact that we are kind of getting to that stage, it's a step in the right direction.

"There's a big difference in going to an event and just being one of the competition and try and do something special. And we have more and more athletes now. That's a very good sign. So pressure is a good thing," said Somdev.

Opportunity lost

Opportunity lost

Somdev went on to rue the fact that tennis was not a part of the Commonwealth Games anymore. "I miss tennis not being there. I have really good memories from 2010. We had a really strong team, Rohan and myself - played doubles. We lost to Leander and mahesh in the bronze medal playoff. Sania won bronze in singles. I won gold in singles. So yes, it's a big miss.

"We have had a decent amount of success as a team. But unfortunately 2010 was the last time that tennis was a part of the CWG. It wasn't in Glasgow or Gold Coast - and not here either. Obviously missing it. Opportunity missed for a lot of promising players from India who could easily have done well," rued Somdev.

"It's a similar story with shooting as well. It's a little bit of a bummer. That from the prospective of an indian fan - it was 16 medals last time. So that's going to be hard to deal with," added the former Indian player.

As an athlete you have to take it in your stride: Somdev on Neeraj

As an athlete you have to take it in your stride: Somdev on Neeraj

Meanwhile, talking about Olympic Gold Medallist Neeraj Chopra missing out on the Games, Somdev added that while it was a big blow, injuries were a part and parcel of an athletes life.

"It will be a big blow. He was the reigning Olympic gold medallist and fantastic showing at the World Athletics just last week. So big miss - a big blow to not have one of your favourite athletes out there. But you have to find the silver lining. He was able to be good enough to win a medal. Part and parcel of being an athlete is dealing with injuries. Hasn't come at the opportune moment but it's something he has to deal with. He will be missed. Maybe not a guaranteed gold medal, but a certain medal will surely be missed.

"I mean he's gone from being a star to an absolute superstar in India and he's handled the pressure so well and not just that, he's actually improving. His

performances, he's getting better, stronger. It is tough to see one of the best athletes in India undergo these injury concerns and having to overcome them. But he's shown a lot of composure in the past, a great head and he's got a great team behind him. So this seems like a precautionary move to save the rest of his career.

"As an athlete you really can't dwell on disappointments. Especially when you have a young career like Neeraj. He's young, he's successful, he's got a lot ahead of him. The important thing is - to not be too emotional about it - to be objective, to understand where you stand. All is not lost for sure. Am sure he'll be disappointed that he won't be able to defend his gold medal from 2018 but as an athlete you have to take it in your stride. It's part and parcel of the game. The best athletes in the world find a way to make it work all the time," signed off Somdev.

Watch the LIVE coverage of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on SONY SIX, SONY TEN 1, SONY TEN 2, SONY TEN 4 (English) & SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels starting from Friday (July 29th) at 12:30 am IST.

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Story first published: Thursday, July 28, 2022, 18:12 [IST]
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