Table tennis: Man v Machine, India’s Sathiyan training with robot

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FILE PHOTO:Table Tennis – Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games – Mixed Doubles Semifinal 2 – England v India – Oxenford Studios – Gold Coast, Australia – April 14, 2018. Sathiyan Gnanasekaran of India looks at the ball. REUTERS/Jeremy Lee

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Stuck indoors and without a training partner during India’s COVID-19 lockdown, the country’s top table tennis player G Sathiyan says he is staying sharp by practicing with a robot.

The governing International Table Tennis Federation has suspended all of its events and activities until June 30 and the three-week lockdown in force in India has disrupted the daily routines of athletes like Sathiyan.

The robot, which Sathiyan imported from Germany, can launch up to 120 balls per minute from across the net with varying spin and speed.

“The robot keeps me on my toes each day and I play with it for about one-and-half hours,” the 27-year-old told Friday’s Times of India newspaper.

“With no practice partners available, this is the best I can do to keep myself in the game mode,” said the world number 31, who is also an engineer.

While the machine is no substitute for training with a real partner it can do some things better.

“It can generate speeds and spin on the ball which no human can manage to,” he added.

“My receiving ability has improved and the flicks too have got better after playing with the robot.”

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