The second edition of Ultimate Table Tennis is set to begin on Thursday. The tournament will begin in Pune with defending champions Falcons TTC taking on Maharashtra United in the opener.
The league will be played in three cities across the period of 18 days. The Pune leg will go on till June 19 after which the competition will shift to the Delhi from June 20 to June 25. The business end of the tournament will take place in Kolkata from June 26 to July 1, which will include the semi-finals and finals.
Players from 19 different nationalities will be competing in the league and amongst them are 24 Olympians, 19 National champions and 17 No 1 ranked players of their respective countries. A hefty prize of Rs 3 crore is up for grabs as well.
Seven matches makeup a tie, with an Indian player taking on a foreign player from the other team in each category (four matches, with reverse fixtures included), foreign players taking on each other (two matches), and one mixed doubles fixture with one Indian and one foreign player on each side.
The skippers of the respective teams are Achanta Sharath Kamal for Warriors TTC, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran for Dabang Smashers TTC, Liam Pitchford for Falcons TTC, Simon Gauzy for Empowerji Challengers, Harmeet Desai for RP-SG Mavericks and Joao Monteiro for Maharashtra United.
Here is a look at how the teams shape up.
Dabang Smashers TTC
Foreign coach: Andrei Filimon
India coach: Sachin Shetty
Indian players: Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Sanish Ambekar, Archana Girish Kamath, Manika Batra
Foreign players: Sakura Mori, Masaki Yoshida, Adriana Yamila Diaz Gonzalez, Cedric Nuytinck
Lead by India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Dabang Smashers is a team to watch out for this season. With Manika Batra also in the squad, they have the most exciting Indian contingent in the league. In Sanish Ambekar and Archana Kamath, the latter recently qualifying for Youth Olympic Games, they have invested in the future as well. Their foreign group of players is being led by World No 28 Sakur Mori of Japan. She along with Batra will be a force to reckon with. They have also roped in junior World No. 10 Adriana Yamila Diaz Gonzalez.
Foreign coach: Peter Engel
India coach: A Muralidhara Rao
Indian players: Manav Thakkar, Arjun Ghosh, Divya Chandrashekhar Deshpande, Prapti Sen
Foreign players: Lee Ho Ching, Tiago Apolonia, Gerogina Pota, Simon Gauzy
With World No 12 Simon Gauzy of France leading the team, the onus is on the youngsters to perform. All eyes will be on India’s Manav Thakkar who recently qualified for the Youth Olympic Games. The World No 2 junior player along with Arjun Ghosh will carry the weight of performing well. Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia, who is ranked 18th in the World, make up the men’s contingent. Experienced veteran Gerogina Pota of Hungary along with India’s Divya Chandrashekhar Deshpande and Prapti Sen will follow the footsteps of World No 20 Lee Ho Ching of Hong Kong.
Foreign coach: Vesna Ojstersek
India coach: Soumyadeep Roy
Indian players: Sanil Shetty, Ronit Bhanja, Priyadarshini Das, Sutirtha Mukherjee
Foreign players: Liam Pitchford, Brenadette-Cynthia Szocs, Matilda Ekholm, Alvaro Robles Martinez
Falcons, might be defending champions, but they will be looking to punch above their weight as 24-year-old and World No 49 Liam Pitchford leads the squad. He will have India’s Sanil Shetty in his corner, who was part of the Commonwealth Games team that bagged eight medals in Australia. Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm will chip in with her vast experience with Sutirtha Mukherjee, also part of the historic gold-medal winning squad at Gold Coast, will provide the Indian touch.
Foreign coach: Francisco Santos
India coach: N Ravichandran
Indian players: Amalraj Anthony, Utkarsh Gupta, Madhurika Patkar, Selena Selvakumar
Foreign players: Joao Monteiro, Elizabeta Samara, Kristian Karlsson, Lily Ann Zhang
Led by Portugal’s Joao Monteiro, Maharashtra United will take on the Falcons in the tournament opener on Thursday. The squad also includes Indian veteran Amalraj Anthony, who will be eager to prove his class on the big stage. In Elizabeta Samara, they have a three-time European champion leading the women’s division. She will find able partners in Madhurika Patkar and youngster Selena Selvakumar.
Foreign coach: Elena Timina
India coach: Arup Basak
Indian players: Harmeet Desai, Siddesh Pande, Mouma Das, Ayhika Mukherjee
Foreign players: Sabine Winter, Doo Hoi Kem, Kou Lei, Mattias Karlsson
RP-SG Mavericks have World No 20 Mattias Karlsson (Sweden), Doo Hoi Kem and Mouma Das in their ranks. They will be captained by India’s Harmeet Desai, the third-highest ranked Indian man, who will want to prove his mettle as a leader. Sabine Winter of Germany and Kou Lei of China can also spring a surprise on their day. Lei is currently ranked 33 in the men’s division. They will take on Empowerji Challengers in their opener.
Foreign coach: Ferenc Karsai
India coach: R Rajesh
Indian players: Achanta Sharath Kamal, Ravindra Kotiyan, Pooja Koparkar, Sreeja Akula
Foreign players: Chin-Yuan Chuang, Hana Matelova, Quadri Aruna, Sofia Polcanova
Warriors are favourites to lift the title this year with Sharath Kamal, enjoying a phenomenal run of form, leading the team. His squad comprises World No. 15 Chuang Chin-Yuan of Chinese Taipei, World No. 22 Aruna Quadri of Nigeria and World No. 18 Sofia Polcanova of Austria. The squad also includes Olympic athlete Hana Matelova of Czech Republic and India’s Pooja Sahasrabudhe who will also play crucial role as the team progresses.