UTT SPOTLIGHT : Sreeja Akula
29 Jun, 2024

Sreeja Akula has etched her name in the history books as the first Indian table tennis player to win a World Table Tennis (WTT) Contender singles title. The 24-year-old's recent success has propelled her to a career-high world ranking of 24th, solidifying her position as India's top female paddler. 

Akula's triumph at the WTT Contender Lagos 2024 tournament was a watershed moment, as she defeated China's Ding Yijie 4-1 in the final to become the first Indian to secure a Contender singles title. This historic achievement has not only boosted Akula's confidence but also showcased the growing prowess of Indian table tennis on the global stage.

The Hyderabad-based player attributes her recent success to a focused approach on improving her mental and physical strength over the past two years."For the last two years, I have been working a lot on improving my mental strength, and I think that is the first aspect where I have improved, especially in 2024," Akula said. "I am mentally well-prepared to play against any opponent, whoever it is."

Akula's dedication to her fitness and conditioning has also paid dividends, as she has become more agile and resilient on the table. "I have also been working a lot on my strength and conditioning, especially to prevent injuries, and to improve my agility on the table. I think that has made a lot of difference in my game," she added. 

The Indian paddler's recent success extends beyond her singles triumph, as she also partnered with compatriot Archana Kamath to win the women's doubles title at the WTT Contender Lagos 2024 tournament. This achievement, coupled with Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar's gold medal in the men's doubles, underscores the depth and talent within the Indian table tennis contingent.

Akula's rise to the top has been a testament to her unwavering determination and the support of her coaches and the Indian Table Tennis Federation (TTFI). Her coach, Somnath Ghosh, has played a crucial role in guiding her through a period of inconsistency and self-doubt, helping her regain her confidence and form.

As Akula sets her sights on the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, she is brimming with confidence and determination. "It's my debut Olympic Games, but I think I am well-prepared for the tournament. I just want to play my best in whichever event I am playing and just want to create the maximum number of upsets," she said. 

With her historic WTT Contender title, Akula has not only etched her name in the annals of Indian sports but has also inspired a new generation of table tennis players to dream big and strive for excellence. Her journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, resilience, and the unwavering pursuit of greatness.

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