PUNE: One of the finest table tennis talent from the country, Achanta Sharath Kamal, who carried India’s hopes for more than a decade before the emergence of top players like Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra, is happy with the way game has progressed.
Sharath, who won bronze medal in singles event at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will lead Warriors TTC in Season 2 of the Ultimate Table Tennis, which begins at the Badminton Hall in Balewadi Sports Complex from Thursday.
“It is just three-week tournament in which you need to be in top of the form from the start. UTT teaches you about how to handle the pressure from the start and it also gives you chance to practice with mixed squads which we generally don’t get chance, while representing country,” said Sharath during the trophy unveiling event.
“Winning is only our main focus whether you are playing German league or any league. German league continues for 10 months where matches are only played on weekends. You have to stay there, practice there which is a very long duration,” added Sharath.
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, who will captain Dabang Samshers, pointed out his phenomenal rise in the World Rankings, from 120 to 44, as best ever and also gave credit to it for India’s stupendous show at the Commonwealth Games.
“UTT has created a platform for Indian players. I was the only undefeated player last season and it gave me the confidence to do well on the World Tour,” Sathiyan said.
Sathiyan is among the three Indians who will be leading their respective franchises. Last season Sharath was the only Indian among the captains.
UTT will see 48 players from the 19 countries out of which 24 players have played in the Olympic Games.
After the Pune leg, which concludes on June 19, UTT heads to Delhi’s Thyagaraj Stadium (June 20-25) before the final leg in Kolkata (June 26 to July 1).
The semifinals are scheduled on June 29 and 30, while the final is on July 1.
The winners will be richer by Rs 1 crore while the runners-up will bag Rs 75 lakh. Both losing semifinalists will get Rs. 25 lakh each.
TABLE TENNIS POPULAR IN PUNE
- TTFI senior vice-president Rajeev Bodas pointed out that interest in the sport has increased since the UTT began last year.
- “A state-level tournament in Pune, which used to attract 200-300 entries, now got more than 600 entries this season. Interest in table tennis is definitely getting bigger,” said Bodas.
- Maharashtra United
- Falcons TTC
- RP-SG Mavericks
- Dabang Smashers TTC
- Warriors TTC
- Empowerji Challengers