New Delhi:Ecstatic after becoming the first Indian men’s doubles pair to qualify for the Olympics, Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy are now looking to tighten their game and improve their fitness level ahead of the Rio Games in August.
The World No. 20 Indian pair sealed its Rio berth after the BWF World ranking were released last Thursday, following the end of the qualification period between May 4, 2015 to May 1, 2016.
Playing their maiden Olympics, Manu said they will work harder to make up for the lack of experience.
“Experience is important. But if you work hard, you can improve faster. There is a three-month gap now and we will look to train harder and improve our fitness for Olympics,” the 23-year-old told PTI.
“Now there is no target apart from Olympics. Like any other athlete, I want to win a medal for my country.”
Sumeeth said: “Olympics is once in four years and all the players ranked higher than us would obviously be in pressure while playing us, so if we can showcase the best game, then God willing I think we can stand on the podium.
“Now that we have qualified, we are given extra attention on court and off court in the camps, most of the players have been feeding us, so there a responsibility on both of us to ensure we give our best to get a medal for India.”
It, however, will be an uphill task for the Indian duo to return with a medal from Rio if their recent performances are any indicator.
Manu and Sumeeth, who had reached the finals of US Open Grand Prix Gold and won the Mexico Open Grand Prix last year, haven’t crossed the first round of any Super Series event this year, apart from the India Open, where they beat an Indian pair in the opening round.
Sumeeth said: “The inconsistency is due to the number of tournaments we had to play since one year, just to make sure we qualify but we now would mostly be focusing on the Olympics so I would like to think that the results would get better from now.
“I think we need to cut down simple errors on court and not give away easy points. We have got to work hard each day without thinking about the results as giving our best is in our hands.”
Asked about the next tournaments and targets, Manu said: “We are next playing Thomas Cup (May 15-22) and then there is Indonesia Open (May 30-June 5) and the long-time target is a medal at 2018 Commonwealth Games,” he said.
Manu and Sumeeth say are like chalk and cheese when it comes to personalities but when they take the court, they bring out the best in each other as is evident from some of the remarkable wins that they have scripted in the last one year to make it to Rio.
“Me and Sumeeth are completely opposite. After a match or training, I like to go out and chill with friends and he wants to stay back, always focused and a serious kind of a guy. But we never interfere in each others’ lives and it never mattered because we are always together when on court, we have a great bonding,” Manu said.
One person who has made a big difference to their game is new doubles specialist coach Kim Her Tan of Malaysia.
Asked about him, Manu said: “We are playing well. We played well at Mexico open and ABC also. Kim is good in techniques and skills. Other coaches like the Indonesians are good players but may be they are not able to translate it into proper coaching.
“But Kim is very good with his analysis of the game. He can see how the opponents are playing. In the German Open, we were down 11—16 and he told us some specific points and we did that and it changed the game completely and we won.
“It has been 8-9 months that he has joined and we are playing pretty well. We have improved our consistency,” added the Meerut-born shuttler.
It was Kim who had advised Manu to pair up with Ashwini Ponnappa for mixed doubles and target a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“We were told by our coach Kim that I and Ashwini can perform well and we should start playing from Syed Modi and eye the 20-20 Olympics,” Manu said.
“We had some close matches and we need to understand each other more. It is a long time thing, we want to do well in 2018 Commonwealth Games and other GPG and Superseries tournaments,” he said.
Unlike Manu, his doubles partner Sumeeth had started as a singles player and was even ranked No.1 by winning five of the seven finals at national level. But a back injury in 2011 forced him to turn to doubles.
He was out of action for around five months in 2011 and after recovering he shifted to doubles and started playing with Manu. The duo won the Senior Nationals in Srinagar in 2012 and then clinched the Tata Open twice back-to-back in 2013 and 2014.
Last year, Manu and Sumeeth won the Lagos open in June and broke into the top 20. They also finished runners-up in Gautmela International and then won Belgium International Challenge championship.