PUNE: Defending champions Falcons TTC are confident of an encore as the second season of CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis is set to begin at the Badminton Hall in Balewadi Stadium here on Thursday.
They take on Maharashtra United in the opening match of the League in what promises to be a gripping contest. Falcons’ top-ranked woman player Matilda Ekholm (World No. 30) declared that the team was in perfect condition and looking forward to a good start.
“We have a good chance of picking up points,” she said, after her training session on Wednesday.
“We are a strong team and are all in good shape. I am confident of defending the title,” added the Swede.
The upbeat mood in the Falcons’ camp ahead of their first tie lies in the fact that they had defeated Maharashtra United in both their ties last season.
Sanil Shetty, Priyadarshini Das, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Englishman Liam Pitchford were part of the team’s success story last year, and they are all seeking to extend their fine showing to this season as well.
However, Falcons will be wary of rival coach Franciso Santos, as the Portuguese will be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, having been their own coach for Season 1. He will also be aiming for a similar result with his new franchise.
Maharashtra United’s World No. 19 Elizabeta Samara admitted that it will be a tough opener. “They (Falcons) have many good players. But I hope we can manage to win some points. We have been preparing well and we are improving day by day,” said the Romanian, who is on her first visit to India.
Her teammate Madhurika Patkar was focused on the task ahead and felt they were well prepared to take on the Falcons.
Falcons TTC: Men: Sanil Shetty, Liam Pitchford (England), Alvaro Robles (Spain), Ronit Bhanja. Women: Bernadette Szocs (Romania), Matilda Ekholm (Sweden), Sutirtha Mukherjee, Priyadarshini Das. Coaches: Soumyadeep Roy, Vesna Ojstersek (Slovenia).
Maharashtra United: Men: Kristian Karlsson (Sweden), Amalraj Anthony, Joao Monteiro (Portugal), Utkarsh Gupta. Women: Elizabeta Samara (Romania), Madhurika Patkar, Lily Zhang (USA), Selena Selvakumar. Coaches: N. Ravichandran, Francisco Santos (Portugal).