There is something about World No. 19 Elizabeta Samara that strikes you as she warms up to the conversation. Maybe it's the bubbling energy in her voice that finds expression. With excitement and motivation nestled in her voice, she opens up to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.
Three-time European Champion Elizabeta, who is making her debut appearance in India, is obviously excited to be here. She candidly confesses as she makes time out of her practice session, "Until now it's okay. I like everything here."
Being an important part of the Maharashtra United team led by the Portuguese captain, João Monteiro, Elizabeta is raring to go and give her best to the team in the UTT.
Taking to table tennis when she was all of 5, the feisty but charming Romanian paddler was all praises for the new format that UTT professes. Instead of the 9 games that was in pay in Season 1, UTT has trimmed the format and brought it to 7 games. The concept of deuce has also been done away with and replaced with the Golden Point. Every game will be decided in the favour of whoever notches 11 points the first.
"Yeah, the format for me is different as it's very fast. The rules, you have to think faster for the next point. I think it's good for the brains and the future and the matches. So I think it's okay like this," Elizabeta relays.
Settling into the Indian climate, Samara is quick to adjust and never lets her spirit fade. With a tone of motivation ringing sharply in the 29 year old's voice, she says, "I am ready for tomorrow's match!"
Placed in a team which boasts of players like Joao Monteiro, India's No.1 Amalraj Anthony and the seasoned Madhurika Patkar, Elizabeta is confident of a good showing. The team has put their faith in young talent with Selena Selvakumar and Utkarsh Gupta while their foreign contingent comprises of some of the tournament's best in Kristian Karlsson and Lily Zhang who will play alongside Elizabeta.
The tennis enthusiast and self professed Rafael Nadal fan lets us in on her rapport with the Maharashta United team, "We are so relaxed. We are so united you know.", she says with a chuckle. "We know each other well. So it's good. "
Elizabeta has been a symbol of hope for Romania countless times by bringing home laurels one after the other. The gutsy woman has been the European Champion in Singles, Doubles and also, Mixed Doubles. There isn't a territory in table tennis that Samara hasn't conquered yet. Yet the spirit remains unfazed and she still remains determined.
At the recently concluded World Championships that was held in Halmstad, the Romanian team had a bittersweet experience. They were not allowed to play against Netherlands due to a terrible confusion that led to a misunderstanding. Samara, on whose shoulders most of the hope was pinned, was obviously disappointed and angry.
"Yeah. It was a misunderstanding. Everybody has their opinions. We were really angry. I was the leader and I could not help my team. But then after this match we were all hungry to win."
Samara vents about the unfair circumstances that caused the World Championships to be an unsatisfactory experience. "This was really not fair. We were ready. We believed we had to beat Holand, Poland. These were the most important matches."
However, post their quarterfinal loss at the World Championships, it's incredible to see the 'hungry to win' mindset still coursing through her veins.
Samara was all praises for India's current position in table tennis, what with the recent outstanding performance in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
"Table tennis in India is really growing so fast. And they have improved and is still improving. It was really nice that they could beat Singapore, one of the strongest team in the world, at the Commonwealth Games."
Asked about India's table tennis star Manika Batra, the experienced paddler lauded the Delhi-born girl who made it big at the CWG, "Yeah it is really a big achievement for her to beat Tianwei (Feng). She is World No. 4. It's a big achievement for her."
Elizabeta, with her unshaken focus and determination to win and see herself at the top level is a true inspiration. At 29, the Romanian paddler is sure to charm hearts with her 'hungry to win' attitude and easy smiles and will surely play a priceless part in the chances of the Maharashtra team in the UTT.