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New Delhi, July 3 – The Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) is all set for its fourth season, scheduled to be held at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mahalunge-Balewadi in Pune from July 13 to 30.
The franchise-based league has been a game-changer for Indian table tennis since its inception in 2017. Going beyond being a platform for world-class table tennis action, the league has been instrumental in showcasing the immense talent of emerging Indian players.
In the inaugural seasons of UTT, then rising stars like Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Manav Thakkar, Sutirtha Mukherjee, and Manika Batra come to the fore.
The league features some of the top table tennis players from around the world, and India has its fair share of talented players representing in the mix.
Here are the Top-7 Indian players to watch out for in the Season 4:
Achanta Sharath Kamal (WR 54, Chennai Lions): Besides his four-Olympic appearances Sharath Kamal is also a 10-time national champion. He alongside Manika Batra won the historic bronze at the 2018 Asian Games. In the Season 3 of UTT, Sharath secured the championship title for Chennai Lions by defeating Sathiyan Gnanasekaran’s Dabang Delhi TTC in the final. Retained by Chennai Lions for Season 4, Sharath has been part of all editions of UTT. He is known for his right-handed shakehand grip and his mental toughness. Gold and silver medalist at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, he has also been awarded the Khel Ratna, the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri.
Manika Batra (WR 38, Bengaluru Smashers): Manika Batra is a table tennis player with many firsts. She became the first Indian to win a medal (bronze while partnering Achanta Sharath Kamal) at Asian Games in 2018. In 2022, she became the first woman to win an Asian Cup medal; a bronze. She bagged two gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. Currently ranked 38th in the world, Manika has achieved notable success. In the second season of UTT, she played a vital role in leading the Dabang Delhi TTC team to victory alongside Sathiyan Gnanasekaran. She will turn out for Bengaluru Smashers in the forthcoming edition.
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (WR 60, Dabang Delhi TTC): Sathiyan Gnanasekaran achieved a career-best world ranking of 24 in 2019, making him the first Indian paddler to break into the world top 25. He has also participated in international leagues in Japan and France. He was a key member of the Indian team that won gold medals at the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games. Sathiyan stunned World No 8 Wong Chun Ting of Hong Kong in an Ultimate Table Tennis match between Dabang Smashers and DHFL in UTT Season 1. The Arjuna awardee spearheaded Dabang Delhi TTC’s title charge in UTT Season 3 helping them reach the finals. He was retained by franshisee for the upcoming edition after having participated in every edition so far.
Manav Thakkar (WR 107; U Mumba TT): Former World No 1 in the U-18 and U-21 ITTF Men’s rankings, Manav Thakkar is a rising star on the Indian table tennis circuit. After starting his journey at a young age, Manav achieved success at the Asian Championships with a bronze medal. He was retained by U Mumba TT for UTT Season 4 after having participated in three UTT editions already. With several podium finishes in prestigious tournaments, Manav continues to showcase his potential.
Sreeja Akula (WR 99, Dabang Delhi TTC): In 2022, Sreeja Akula became the first Telangana women to clinch the senior nationals title and also ended the state’s 58-year-old medal drought. The 24-year-old maintained her dominance at the domestic circuit and successfully defended her crown earlier this year. She was part of the Indian squad that won gold medal in mixed doubles event with Sharath Kamal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. She also won gold in women’s doubles and women’s team events at the 2019 South Asian Games. Although Sreeja has only participated in one edition of UTT, Sreeja was naturally Dabang Delhi TTC’s first pick.
Sutirtha Mukherjee (WR 116, Chennai Lions): Two-time national champion Sutirtha Mukherjee has left her mark on UTT with some brilliant performances including a stunning victory over then World No. 9 Cheng I-Ching in Season 3. Since that victory, Sutirtha’s career has seen a rise as she has clinched three gold medals — singles, mixed doubles and team — at the South Asian Games in 2019. Recently the 27-year-old made headlines after bagging the doubles title at the WTT Contender in Tunis last month alongside Ayhika Mukherjee. Sutirtha will be looking to extend her impressive run for the defending champions Chennai Lions at UTT Season 4.
Harmeet Desai (WR 71, Goa Challengers): The 29-year-old paddler from Surat, Gujarat has been a consistent performer. He was part of the squad that won gold in the men’s team event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Harmeet also had a spectacular 2019 where he won the gold in men’s doubles, mixed doubles and men’s team events at the South Asian Games held in Kathmandu. This level of consistency had Goa Challengers pick him first in the UTT Season 4 Player Draft .