Sreeja Akula Aims for Olympic Upsets After Career-High Ranking

In 2022, Sreeja had teamed up with Achanta Sharath Kamal to win the mixed doubles gold in her first-ever Commonwealth Games appearance in Birmingham…reports Asian Lite News

Sreeja Akula created history earlier this week by becoming the first Indian table tennis player to win a WTT Contender singles title and on Tuesday she became India’s top-most paddler with a career-high ranking of 24. The 25-year-old now hopes to carry the momentum and create a few upsets at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Sreeja, who played an important role in helping India qualify for the team event at Paris 2024, will be participating in both the team and individual events and is high on confidence as she has hit a purple patch this year.

During an interview with Ultimate Table Tennis, Sreeja said, “It’s my debut Olympic Games but I think I am well prepared for the tournament. I just want to play my best in whichever event I am playing and just want to create the maximum number of upsets.”

In 2022, Sreeja had teamed up with Achanta Sharath Kamal to win the mixed doubles gold in her first-ever Commonwealth Games appearance in Birmingham.

Sreeja, who had upset world no. 2 Wang Yidi of China at the 2023 ITTF World Team Championships, began the year by winning the WTT Feeder Corpus Christi 2024 singles title in January in Texas and added another crown in Beirut two months later. The Hyderabad-based paddler defeated upcoming Chinese player Ding Yijie in the singles final at the WTT Contender in Lagos and then combined with compatriot Archana Kamath to win a doubles crown.

The former national champion also credited UTT experience for her overall development saying, “UTT has been very helpful for every table tennis player. I think we are getting good exposure and it’s really helping us in international tournaments as well.”

Sreeja had an impressive season last year for Dabang Delhi TTC. Heading into the Olympics, She has worked extensively on her overall fitness and also on her mental conditioning as she wanted to be at her best ahead of the Paris Games.

“For the last two years, I have been working a lot on improving my mental strength and I think that is the first aspect where I have improved, especially in 2024. I am mentally well prepared to play against any opponent, whoever it is.

“I have also been working a lot on my strength and conditioning, especially to prevent injuries, and to improve my agility on the table. I think that has made a lot of difference in my game. I have also worked a lot on my first ball attack against the push. I have tried to be more consistent in attacking that ball and I can see these three aspects have brought a lot of change in my game,” Sreeja said.

Both Indian men’s and women’s teams have secured a historic qualification in the team event at the Paris Olympics. Sreeja is part of the women’s team along with Manika Batra and Kamath whereas the men’s team consists of Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar.

After the Olympics, Indian paddlers will be seen in action alongside top international stars in the Ultimate Table Tennis 2024, scheduled to be held in Chennai from August 22 to September 7.

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