By Neha Aggarwal
England’s Paul Drinkhall is not a new face to be seen in New Delhi this week for the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open which commences on Thursday 16th February at the Thyagraj Sports Complex in New Delhi.
The Indians will remember him from the 2010 Commonwealth Games, when in the semi-finals of the Men’s Team event, England beat India 3-1 and ended the host nation’s hopes of a place in the final. The man behind the victory was Paul Drinkhall, who won both his matches beating Amalraj Anthony and Sharath Kamal Achanta. England won silver, while India had to settle down with the bronze medal.
But Paul is thrilled to be back.”I have played the Commonwealth Games in India, which was a great experience; I love the Indian people who I think are very warm and friendly and hospitable, and it’s a very beautiful country with a rich culture so it’s always a bonus to visit. However, I am excited to be back primarily for the competition, that must be my focus,” he said.
The fans have been awaiting to watch the Englishman back in action and certainly will be there to support him.
“If I have any fans in India then I am very happy! I’d like to say a big thank you for watching me play and I hope you enjoy watching the matches as much as I enjoy the challenge of playing in them but I think for one match you can stop being a fan of me if I play Achanta and I will understand if you cheer for him, he is the home favourite after all!” Paul Drinkhall
Well prepared Paul
Seeded no.6 in the tournament, Paul will surely have a challenge and has been preparing well for that. “I always go to a competition for the same reason, to win! I’ve won a World Tour before and been a finalist, so I know this is possible but also I respect the fact that it’s a very strong field, with some really great players so you always have to keep that in mind. I am hoping for a strong performance, I hope to play well, and to reach the later stages or to win would be very pleasing,” he said.
He keeps a strong regime, irrespective of the tournament, the focus on fitness is always the key. He explained, “My preparation has been my normal practice routine, both with practice on the table and fitness. I try to eat well, I run several times a week and do table tennis specific fitness conditioning, and of course I practise on the table also. It can be difficult depending on what time if the season it is to try to ‘peak’ for certain events, so I try to stay in good shape for matches most of the season.”
Certainly, the challenge here at New Delhi is gruelling with the presence of Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Vladimir Samsonov to name a few. Undoubtedly he aims high but prefers it to be a hidden treasure. “I try not to talk about my aims to specifically, they are my secret!” he giggled.
However, the well grounded Paul is well aware of the challenge.” There is a quality field at the Indian Open, the strength in depth is really quite good; of course there is Dima (Ovtcharov) and Vladi (Samsonov) heading the list so you would have to look at those two players as the toughest, but then you have the Japanese,” said Paul.
” Koki Niwa defeated me in the final of the Russian Open, and then you have a strong German team with Duda, Filus, Walther, Mengel and Baum, and of course the Indian favourite Achanta who will be looking to play well in front of the home crowd and is always a dangerous player,” – Paul Drinkhall.
The Englishman had a successful 2016 with a bronze medal at Perfect 2016 World Team Championships, round of 16 appearance at the Olympic Games which earned him his highest ranking of no.32 in the year 2016. Certainly he is high on confidence which will only take him to the next level.
“Last year was incredible for the team to gain a bronze medal, especially after only being promoted to the top division one year earlier – and the Olympics is always special for a player, so it was nice to perform well in Rio, although of course I was aiming for a medal. One aim I will share is that I hope to put in a strong performance in the World Tours that I am able to play in when I fit them around my club commitments!”
Paul Drinkhall is prepared and so is New Delhi, with open arms.
Watch him LIVE from 16th February only on itTV.ittf.com.