Pune hosted the first leg Ultimate Table Tennis League 2018 from June 14. The competition started with Maharashtra United going head to head with the Falcons at the Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex in Balewadi.
The league consists of six teams: Dabang Smashers, Falcons, Maharashtra United, RP-SG Mavericks, Warriors, and Empowerji Challengers. Each team consists of three men and three women players.
The competition has started from Pune which went on till June 19 after which the competition will take place in Delhi (June 20 to 25) followed by Kolkata (June 26 to July 1).
When they were playing the league in Pune, KreedOn spoke exclusively with Manika Batra, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, and Sharath Kamal. Below is the transcript of the interview.
Interview with Sharath Kamal – Ultimate Table Tennis
KreedOn – How does it feel to be in the second season of the UTT League?
Sharath Kamal – It’s fantastic, it is a great opportunity for all of us to showcase our game and also how the game is being promoted. Feeling very happy how things are shaping which is good for the sport.
KreedOn – How is the crowd response this time compared to last time?
Sharath Kamal – It’s the same, but as the game is becoming popular, I can see many kids and that’s a good sign. We can motivate the kids to come and watch the game in the hall, it’s a good thing that they will pick up the sport
KreedOn – Is this league a good preparatory camp for the upcoming Asian games?
Sharath Kamal- Yes, for Asian game’s we will need to be very sharp and very fit, so this kind of matches help us to get there and do that and it gives us a confidence.
Interview with Sathiyan Gnanasekaran – Ultimate Table Tennis
KreedOn – Last time you were unbeaten, so what are your expectations this UTT?
Sathiyan – Of course to be unbeaten again (Laughingly), it can’t get any better. Playing this is so much fun along with the team and energy. I like playing team matches when there is soo much energy on the bench and this is helping me a lot and the team has been very supportive. I hope I continue this run. It’s going to be tough this year as there are better players and if I remain unbeaten this year, it would be fantastic.
KreedOn – What do you think about how UTT, has it affected the whole level of table tennis in India?
Sathiyan – You could see that on the table and that really speaks because we have done very well in the commonwealth games. I was 120 last year and coming now at 44, that is a huge jump in the world rankings.
It all started in last year’s UTT that gave me the confidence to go out and play, that belief that if I can beat them here, I can beat them in the world circuits as well. The entire Indian team ranking has gone up, and now everyone expects Indians to win against the top 20. That itself speaks for what level we have raised up
KreedOn – Can we expect better performance at the Asian games?
Sathiyan – We have already done wonderfully in commonwealth games by getting 8 medals which were fantastic. Asian games are going to be a different ball game. We will be facing top-level players from China and Japan. We are going to give our best, with the confidence I guess Indian players are doing very well. Probably there is a chance to win a medal in the team events. We are looking forward to playing and have fun like we did in the commonwealth.
Interview with Manika Batra – Ultimate Table Tennis
KreedOn – What are your plans for Asian games? How many medals are you targeting this time?
Manika – I will not say about medals, but like I played in commonwealth games, I will give my 100% over there and I will give my best.
KreedOn – What is your ultimate dream, your goal?
Manika – Ultimate dream is obviously Olympic medal, for now, the short-term goal is to be in top 40 in world rankings and defeat some Chinese or Japanese (laughingly).
KreedOn – You were the first one to get into the top 100 world rankings from India, how does it feel?
Manika – I felt proud of myself, as foreigners think Indians cannot do better and I had to prove everyone.
It was great speaking with three Flag Bearer of Indian Table tennis and know their achievements and future goals, which inspires millions of youngsters to do something in life. As of now let’s carry on with the UTT League and fasten our seat belts for their performance at Asian games.
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