TT player Desai creates mini bio-bubble to train with friend
While his contemporaries used the Covid-enforced lockdown and the subsequent unlock phase to improve their fitness, reigning national table tennis champion Harmeet Desai went a step further and created a ‘mini bio-bubble’ at his home in Surat so that he could practice with his friend Tushar Chauhan.
When the lockdown was enforced, Desai started doing everything he could to stay fit and improve his skills, even doing lengthy sessions on the table with a robot. However, the 27-year-old, who was world No. 72 when the rankings were frozen, felt the absence of a training partner.
“Training with a robot is different (from training with humans). It helps improve your skills. It’s multi-ball training—you have 100 balls within a few minutes and you can give a lot of spin, you can adjust the speed and everything. But it is all constant,” said Desai, who represents Puneri Paltan in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) league. “A human will always be unpredictable… there are a lot more variations. It also differs from player to player: it would be different if you are playing a left-hander, an aggressive or a defensive player.”
But training with a player was out of question unless the person stayed in the same house or the same compound. With players reluctant to travel for the national camp, Desai decided to invite his friend Chauhan to stay with him and practice daily. Chauhan, who represents Daman and Diu, studies in Surat and had gone to his native place 60km away when the lockdown was enforced.
“His family was reluctant to take the risk (of sending him to Surat),” said Desai, the first TT player from Gujarat to win the national singles title. To allay the family’s fears, Desai created a mini bio-bubble at home. Except regular testing, all other precautions were in place: social distancing, regular hand washing, no interaction with outsiders, etc.
“I assured them I will not go out and my family members will also limit their interactions with outsiders. After a lot of convincing, they agreed and Tushar has been staying with me for the last few months and we are having regular training,” said Desai, who sends videos of his sessions to his coach in Germany, where he played for TTCOE Bad Homburg last year.
“This was a good experience. We had matches in which I gave him (Tushar) the odds—like starting at 0-6 in an 11-point game to simulate tough matches,” Desai added.
The reason Desai decided to create a ‘mini bio-bubble’ was because he wanted real competition, which would help him prepare for the French League and also the upcoming season. “I moved to the French League where I will play for second division club Loire Nord TTC. It (the club) gives me the freedom to compete in the domestic circuit, play a few tournaments for my employer ONGC and concentrate on Pro Tours as well,” said Desai, who won the Indonesian Open last year.
Desai is now waiting for his work visa so that he can fly off to France for his club assignment.