Ultimate Table Tennis: Indians steamroll international players in Tie 11
A tiny fluorescent orange ball glides over a table towards a flaming red paddle, which is poised and ready to attack as soon as the ball contacts it. In one brandishing movement, the ball shoots back and leaves the opponent dumbfounded. A referee yells in the distance; ‘Game!’ and the two warriors bid farewell to each other with a firm handshake. This is table tennis.
Fast paced, exhilarating and intense, this sport has finally found it’s way into the Indian sports entertainment segment with the commencement of the Ultimate Table Tennis League. This league, which started on the 13th of July, has seen world class players, divided into six franchises, lock horns with each other. Each team includes 8 members, consisting of four men and women along with four international and four Indian players. Some notable Indian players include Sharath Kamal Achanta, who is currently the best player India has to offer, along with some promising young talents like Manika Batra and Madhurika Patkar.
The question then remains; have the Indian players performed and proved to be worthy of this mantle? Have they showcased their skills and etched lasting impressions on everyone’s minds?
So far, the Indians have proved to be a legitimate threat in this league; they’ve delivered match-winning performances almost every day of the tournament so far, and here are a few examples of breathtaking performances by them.
Tie 11: Manika Batra vs. Sabine Winter:
Olimax Stag Yoddhas, the team to which Manika belongs to, were placed dead last in the points table and another loss for them could mean that they didn’t make it to the semi-finals stage. Their next tie was against the RP-SG Mavericks’ Sabine Winter. Following her impressive performance as a teammate in the mixed doubles round where they won 2-1, Manika won in a very convincing manner against Sabine, who currently holds World Rank 45, and hadn’t been beaten by an Indian player until then.
Batra won the first game on golden point, and lost closely to Winter in the second one, but her third game was a most convincing and comfortable victory. She kept Winter in the dark with her ever changing game strategy and impressively blocked her spin with clever backhand blocks.This brought out the fatigue factor in Winter as she ended up on the losing side. At the end of that day, Olimax Stag Yoddhas climbed from last to third place, and a major piece of the credit goes to Manika Batra’s clever play.
Tie 10: Sathiyan Gnanasekaran vs. Wong Chun Ting:
Ting is ranked at no. 8 in the world, which means there are only seven players in this entire world who are better than him. This severely daunting fact did not deter Sathiyan, however, as he aggressively took down this player in a classic David vs. Goliath battle. Ting was in for a shocker in the first game, where he could only manage to score 3 points compared to Sathiyan’s 11. The next game, Ting tried to make up for this loss but it went in vain, as Sathiyan smashed him once again for a 11-9 win. Ting managed to save his reputation by winning the third match by 11-7, but by then the damage was already done, and the Dabang Smashers had won this game against the Maharashtra United.
Tie 10: Madhurika Patkar vs. Fu Yu:
Buoyed by the win of teammate Sathiyan, Madhurika Patkar destroyed Fu Yu on the same day, becoming the first Indian female to win against a foreigner, setting up the path for players like Manika Batra.
Again, Fu Yu was expected to win this game with relative ease, being ranked no. 37 as opposed to Madhurika’s 190. Yet again, the legend got a nasty surprise from the underdog as Madhurika beat Fu Yu in the first match, pushing her into corners and not letting her play her usual a-game. The second game brought some sort of redemption for Yu with a 7-11 win, but she fell again in the third game when Madhurika beat her by a close 11-10.
These performances by Indian players are truly awe-inspiring and they convey that no matter how many odds are stacked up against you, if you play cleverly and to your strengths then there is always a chance for you to win. Hopefully, UTT will have a similar effect as the ISL and the Pro Kabaddi League had and will create a major fan following amongst Indians.
We were definitely glad to see Abhishek Bachchan try out his serve with Sharath Kamal’s aid here:
Hopefully such talented players and patronage of eminent personalities will inspire even more people to pick up their paddles and smash balls across tables.
Ultimate Table Tennis League Standings as on 27 July 2017
Here is a glance at where the teams stand as of now: