NEW DELHI: The Thyagaraj Sports Complex is set to come abuzz with the third edition of the Ultimate Table Tennis from Thursday. Top India stars and a smattering of foreign players will be in action in the event which goes on till August 11.The organisers are hoping that the event, coming on the back of India’s success at the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, will attract people to the venue. However, the cramped ITTF schedule has left little scope for maneuvering among top Indian stars. They have been playing almost non-stop for a month-and-a-half and reached Delhi from Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.
While injuries have not yet occurred, there is little time to relax thanks to press meets, photoshoots along with practice. Thursday onwards, there are matches everyday till the final. Teams play every two-three days. “Things are a bit hectic. We have so many obligations to fulfil. We are not complaining but the schedule is packed,” Chennai Lions captain A Sharath Kamal said.
Organisers have assured the best of medical facilities. Germany’s Tischtennis Bundesliga (TTBL) league had to be postponed to make space in the calendar for UTT. Their rules state players cannot participate elsewhere while contracted to their clubs. The deferment ensured the participation of Sharath and G Sathiyan for the entire duration of the meet.
While the previous seasons of UTT saw a better quality of foreign stars, organisers have insisted that giving maximum opportunity to Indian players is what they are looking at. Sharath added that though their rankings might be on the lower side, the line-up of foreign players have different qualities to offer.“The women’s section has players in the top twenty. Even among men, the players are quite good. It might not reflect in rankings but their personalities will add to the overall effect.” There are two foreigners in each of the six teams.
In trying to make the league television-friendly, the format has again been tweaked. While the first season had nine matches, the second had seven. Now, each team will play five ties with a match decided over three games. The aim is to ensure that the entire day’s proceedings can be concluded in two hours.In the opening match of the season, Sathiyan-led Dabang Delhi TTC will begin their title defence against Puneri Paltan TT that boasts of Commonwealth gold winners Harmeet Desai and Ayhika Mukherjee.
July 25 to August 11
Semifinals: August 9 and 10
Final: August 11
Venue: Thyagraj Stadium, New Delhi
Prize Money: `2 crore (winners `75 lakh, runners-up `50 lakh, losing semifinalists `25 lakh each, other individual awards total: `25 lakh)
Live on Star Sports 1