In the current season, which officially started on July 1, there are many new faces in the Tischtennis Bundesliga (TTBL). In a small series, we introduce the newcomers in more detail. In this part we turn to Sathiyan Gnanasekaran from ASV Grünwettersbach.
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran is a real superstar. So far, this sentence only applies to his home country India, where he is the face of a sheer table tennis boom, which has been given a tremendous boost with the professional league called Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT). But that should change, as the ambitious goal of the project is an Olympic medal for India by 2024. And Gnanasekaran is clearly one of the candidates.
In the new season of the Tischtennis Bundesliga (TTBL), the 25-year-old plays for ASV Grünwettersbach – and thus takes the next step on the career ladder. Internationally, he has long arrived in the top 50 in the world and reached a new personal best in the ITTF world ranking with place 39 in August. Not bad for someone who came to table tennis by accident, as Gnanasekaran recently told the sports website Sportskeeda. "My mom just wanted to put me in any individual sport and TT centre had just started close to my house in 1998." And so Ganasekaran's career took off.
In 2016, he celebrated his first international title winning the Belgium Open. Back then, he earned his money in Germany at TSG Kaiserslautern in the Regionalliga, where he was obviously under-challenged (record: 16-1). The triumph at the Belgium Open was only the second victory of an Indian on the ITTF World Tour (see video). Before him, only Kamal Achanta was able to win one of the ITTF tournaments. The graduated engineer attributed his success to his father, who died in November 2015. "After he passed away, his dream to see me a successful table tennis player was my biggest motivation to start training again." Before each game, he still prays to his father, who was also his biggest fan.
"The beginning of a new era"
Another World Tour title should follow, this time at the Spanish Open in November 2017, when he was already in the top 100 in the world (88th). Earlier that year, he had finished the debut season of UTT without a single loss. In April 2018, Gnanasekaran was part of the Indian delegation at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and secured three medals: gold with the team, silver in doubles and bronze in mixed. Overall, the Indian team won eight medals. "It was amazing and we had put a great show", said Gnanasekaran to Sportskeeda. "I feel it is the beginning of a new era and it is only upwards from here in Table Tennis."
It certainly was for him. In early July, Gnanasekaran was the captain of the Dabang Smashers in the second season of Ultimate Table Tennis and won the title, at the Australian Open last week, he made his way into the round of 16 – despite beeing a qualifier. His next goal are the Asian Games (August 18 to September 2) – and of course a successful season with Grünwettersbach. There, the anticipation should already be on the rise.
Header photo: ITTF