BY SUHRID BARUA
Pune: There are young and hungry for success. And the city-based paddlers -Shubhankar Renavikar and Devika Bhide have been making just the right noises on the table tennis table with sterling performances in the just-concluded state ranking table tennis championships in Nagpur.
Shubhankar, a sixth standard student of Muktangan High School, was unseeded in the cadet (under-12) boys’ singles event, where he countered mild resistance in disposing off S Rebello of Mumbai 11-8, 11-4, 11-7 to clinch the title.
Devika Bhide, a sixth standard student of Kalmadi High School, lapped up the cadet (under-12) girls’ singles crown. She used the Nagpur event to exact sweet revenge on Avanti Saoji of Nagpur winning 11-2, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6. It is worth remembering that Devika had finished second best to Avanti in the Borivali state ranking championship.
Former Indian paddler Ajey Sidhaye, who has been coaching the two promising paddlers for the past few years, is justifiably on cloud nine.
“Shubhankar went into the tourney loaded with confidence after having won the state ranking championship in Borivalli last month. He just enacted the same form here,” Ajey said.
The 49-year-old coach feels Shubhankar’s asset is his intelligence. “He (Shubhankar) knows his strengths and weaknesses very well. He possesses an superb forehand top-spin, but needs to work on his backhand strokes. He also has to improve his service,” observed Ajey, whose playing career spanned from 1972 to 1988.
Ajey, who donned the India colours at the Asian Junior championship in 1976, believes Shubhankar can go places if he has his feet firmly planted on the ground. “He has the potential to climb the success ladder. His parents are very supportive, either his father or mother always accompanies him to every tournament outside Pune. I hope he makes the most of all that and go on and play for the country.”
Ajey, however, rates Devika as a complete player. “She is young, but has a complete game. But she must learn to put her thinking cap on. She is playing and winning which is fine, but there would be occasions when when you have to read the game better and outthink your opponent. I’m sure with experience she would get it right,” Ajey signed off.