On the tables with Maha Utd: Rising to the challenge of Falcons TT at Ultimate Table Tennis Championship
HT gets exlcusive access to a Maharashtra United practice session as Pune’s ‘home’ team looks to make home advantage count in the opening leg of the Ultimate Table Tennis championshippune Updated: Jun 14, 2018 15:51 IST
The Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) championship, in its second edition, has grown in stature, despite maintaining the same number of teams. With players from across the globe participating, Puneites will have their state team to cheer for as Maharashtra United will be playing two games in the city against Falcons TTC on June 14 and the RP-SG Mavericks on June 17.
Building up to the crucial game against defending champions Falcons TTC, Maharashtra United players, on Wednesday afternoon, were on the tables and allowed HT exclusive access to the session.
N Ravichandran, their head coach, was busy analysing every player.
With Madhurika Patkar it was forehand and backhand returns, while also testing her reaction time after she released the ball. Patkar then trained for a brief amount of time with Elizabeta Samara, the team’s highest ranked female athlete, who has a world ranking of 19.
Samara worked on her serve while Patkar worked on her returns of serve, trying to make it extremely hard for her opponent to hit a quick return.
On the adjacent table, a heated mixed doubles practice match was taking place between Amalraj Arputharaj and Lily Ann Zhang against Kristian Karlsson and Samara. Ravichandran was keeping one eye on their performance, criticising the movement during points.
Youngsters Selena Selvakumar and Utkarsh Gupta practiced on the third table and were also discussing tactics with the likes of Karlsson, Samara and their captain Joao Monteiro, who was overseeing the training sessions.
Maybe a sign of things to come, the mood in the camp was action-packed, with each player trying to outplay themselves. Despite being together for only a couple of days, they already seem to have a certain sense of bonding among themselves. This can only be good news for the fans in Pune as they they will be hopeful to see Maharashtra United begin the competition on a high note with a win against the defending champions, Falcons TT.
UTT’s first leg is at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex in Balewadi.
Men: Kristian Karlsson (Sweden), Amalraj Anthony, Joao Monteiro (Portugal), Utkarsh Gupta
Women: Elizabeta Samara (Romania), Madhurika Patkar, Lily Zhang (USA), Selena Selvakumar.
Top players: Women: Kristian Karlsson (Sweden; WR 18), Elizabeta Samara (Romania; WR 19)
Madhurika Patkar: “Women in India have to face a lot of limitations, working with players from other countries and playing against them in training helped me improve certain aspects of my game. The practice session saw my performances at the international level shoot up and I’m very thankful to UTT for giving me the opportunity.”
Elizabeta Samara: “I think UTT will help Indian table tennis prevail. I have noticed a marked improvement in Indian players ever since the tournament began and am happy to be a part of something great in India.
Selena Selvakumar: “UTT has given us a platform to showcase our skills and also work with talented overseas players. They have helped me improve my game and I am forever grateful to the league.
Utkarsh Gupta: “All my teammates have been extremely supportive and motivational and it has almost been like a second family. We have a number of talented players and should, and will be, challenging for the crown.”
Kristian Karlsson: “This is a very interesting league. I regretted missing out last year after hearing all my colleagues telling me how good it was. I find the format here very unique and is why I decided to come here. I hope I can help Maharashtra United win the tournament.
Joao Monteiro: “I participated in UTT last year for the Maharashtra outfit, not knowing what to expect. However, once I began training and playing, I realised that everything was so organised and perfect and decided that I have to come back next year. I am bullish about our chances this season as we have a talented group of individuals.”