21 years ago, a young 6-year-old kid named Harmeet Desai decided to pursue a career that was not prevalent in India. The boy from the silk city of India decided to weave his table tennis bat like a wand as he started playing the sport regularly. Fast forward to 2020, the 26-year-old Harmeet Desai is an Arjuna award winner and a successful paddler who has been in the limelight since his clinical performances in 2018.
Harmeet came into the limelight in 2018 when he won two medals in the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast. He won gold in men's team event with Sharath Kamal, Anthony Amalraj, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran & Sanil Shetty and bronze in Men's doubles event with Sanil Shetty. He entered the list of top 100 paddlers in the world after his astonishing exploits.
Recently, Desai defeated Manav Thakkar to win his maiden National Table Tennis Championship.
In an exclusive conversation with Sportskeeda, Harmeet Desai takes us down the memory lane as he talks about the initial phase of his career, his success mantra and having a positive mindset.
Q. As a kid when did you decide to pursue table tennis as a career?
I started playing at the age of 6 and just after a year or something I was sure to continue table tennis and to pursue my career in it. It had just become my passion at that time and my family also supported me to play table tennis and that made me quite sure to play table tennis.
Q. You qualified for the main draw of the Hungarian open, how does winning boost your confidence?
I qualified in the doubles event in the Hungarian Open and it was really good to beat the British pair that was ranked quite high and even in the singles event, I defeated the Chinese Taipei player who is also a doubles champion and is a higher-ranked player in the singles. Beating high ranked players gives a confidence boost and helps me to achieve more things and increase my self belief for the coming tournaments and improve my world ranking.
Q. You had a successful journey at Gold Coast in 2018, describe the journey.
2018 was a special year for me, winning two medals at Gold Coast was special. I played my first CWG in 2014 but couldn’t win back then. I was determined in 2018 and I worked hard for that and I was really happy that my hard work paid off and I continued to play well with that confidence. The year 2018 was really important for me and I hope I continue to play well and make some better results shortly.
Q. How did coach Peter Karlsson help you in the initial phase of your career?
It was a great learning experience under Peter Karlsson and it was a really important time where a player can improve a lot and I went there when I was 16 years old and I was under him for five years. That was the transition phase from junior to men's.
I learned a lot from him, working on the physical aspect, knowing the game more, tiny details and also where I was lacking, tactical and technical aspect. A lot of things I learned under him, also the things which weren’t available in India at that time, I got those in Sweden, I started playing a lot of league matches and that exposure was really helpful for my game. It’s a great impact on my career.
Q. What are the learnings which you took from the early part of your career which have helped you throughout your career?
At a very young age, I learned that discipline, hard work and patience are really important to be a good player. With all these qualities, I could do well when I started table tennis. My father had put a lot of emphasis on hard work and discipline.
I was very patient because I was passionate about table tennis and despite the result, I would train hard and come back to the practice and I enjoyed the sport, that is important for a player, to enjoy what he does, that has worked for me to grow as a player. The two most important things to be a successful athlete are hard work and discipline.
Q. How do you keep a positive mindset after a defeat?
In table tennis, we play many tournaments around the year and we need to be positive even if we lose a match or don’t perform well in a tournament so that is important for a table tennis player. To analyse things which didn’t go their way and to come back positively and to learn from the mistakes and don’t doubt yourself and believe in yourself and always stay motivated to perform better.
That’s the basic mindset of all the table tennis players and I think I don’t get negative so much and I always try work on it, work on things that don’t work in the tournament and come back in the practice hall and work on things which are lacking and that’s how I keep on working on improving the things. It's really important to be positive so that you can push yourself harder and succeed in the next matches and to achieve your goals.Published 25 Feb 2020, 07:30 IST