Young Indian paddler Manav Thakkar has jumped nine places to become the world number one in the Under-21 men’s singles category in the latest International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) rankings. Thakkar, with 6780 points, is followed by France’s Bastien Rembert on 6510 points.

Thakkar, 19, is the first Indian to achieve No. 1 status in the Under-21 ranking, following his supreme feat of being the No. 1 paddler in the Under-18 category as well, which he achieved two years ago.

“It feels great and I think it’s the perfect start to 2020. I hope I can continue like this and end the year on a high,” Thakkar told The Sportstar. “I think I can (break into the Top-100) in the next 6-7 months. I was in the 150s and after this achievement, I have jumped to 132. I believe it is possible.”

What brings Thakkar this wonderful achievement is a series of impressive performances over the last two years, but mostly, it was his win in the U-21 men’s singles title at the ITTF Challenge Plus in Canada last month, where he defeated Argentina’s Martin Bentancor 11-3 11-5 11-6. After Soumyajit Ghosh, Harmeet Desai and G Sathiyan, Thakkar became the fourth Indian paddler to win the elusive crown.

Thakkar, born in Surat, revealed how while growing up, he was inclined towards others sports, primarily, skating and Gymnastics. He learnt skating in the city before shifting his focus to table tennis and gymnastics at the same time at the age of five. Thakkar explained how both the sports helped him shape better for TT.

“Reflexes are an important part of TT and that’s where gymnastics helped me a lot. It also helped me in maintaining posture and improving concentration, which are extremely crucial aspects of table tennis. My mother is a yoga instructor and she knew gymnastics and yoga would help me with everything,” he told The Sportstar.

“Skating helps with leg movement and agility. In skating when you turn, you need cross-stepping. In TT, when you want to reach a very long ball, you can’t use just one leg to get there. You have to make optimum use of both legs by doing cross-stepping.”

Among other Indians, Sathiyan has managed to retain his 30th spot in the senior category, while Achanta Sharath Kamal has climbed a spot to 33rd position in the world table tennis rankings issued on Thursday. Manika Batra, the country’s top woman paddler, was static at 61st position.