Top paddlers in action as UTT 2018 season unfolds on June 14

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Mumbai, June 5 (IANS) Indias 2018 Commonwealth Games heroes and top paddlers from around the world will be showcasing their skills in the second edition of CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) that gets underway in Pune from June 14.

An initiative by 11Sports with the support of Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), the cash-rich UTT will see the Indian stars — Manika Batra, Mouma Das, Madhurika Patkar, Achanta Sharath Kamal, Anthony Amalraj, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty, Pooja Sahasrabudhe and Sutirtha Mukherjee — under the spotlight after their historic achievement in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where they bagged a record eight medals (three gold, two silver and three bronze).

Frenchman Simon Gauzy (World No. 12) and Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem (World No. 13) are among the top-ranked foreign players in the glitzy league featuring six teams — Empowerji Challengers, Dabang Smashers T.T.C, Falcons TTC, Maharashtra United, RP-SG Mavericks and Warriors T.T.C.

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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 the teams battle for top honours over 18 days of intense competition.

During the league phase spread over 15 days, each team will play the other once with six ties each in Pune and Delhi. Kolkata will play host to three league ties besides the semi-finals and the grand final on July 1.

Maharashtra United, whose roster boasts the likes of Amalraj along with Swede Kristian Karlsson (World No. 18) and Romanian Elizabeta Samara (World No. 19), face a stiff challenge first up as they line up against defending champions Falcons TTC who are spearheaded by Sanil Shetty and another top Swede in Matilda Ekholm (World No. 30) on the inaugural day at the Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune.

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High-voltage action is on the cards on the second day when Empowerji Challengers, who possess top-ranked players in Gauzy, Manav Thakkar (World Junior No. 2) and Hong Kong’s Lee Ho Ching (World No. 20), clash with an equally quality side RP-SG Mavericks, who have World No. 20 Mattias Karlsson (Sweden), Doo Hoi Kem and Mouma in their ranks.

CWG double gold medallist Manika will step up to the table on the third day when her team Dabang Smashers T.T.C., that includes Sakura Mori (World No 28) and G Sathiyan, lines up against Warriors T.T.C. (formerly Yoddhas) comprising Sharath, World No. 15 Chuang Chih-Yuan (Chinese Taipei), World No. 22 Aruna Quadri (Nigeria) and World No. 18 Sofia Polcanova (Austria).

The teams will be aiming for an early lead as they play their second ties in the next three days of action before heading to the national capital.

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The winners will be richer by Rs 1 crore while the runners-up will bag Rs 75 lakh. Both losing semifinalists will get Rs 50 lakh each.

–IANS

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