Freitas eyes an Olympic medal

Confident, composed and determined — these are words that define Marcos Freitas — the silver medallist at the 2015 European Table Tennis Championships. The world No. 14 is the second highest-ranked player in the inaugural edition of the UTT, where he represents Dabang Smashers.

Marcos Freitas in Chennai on Monday.   -  K. Pichumani

Confident, composed and determined — these are three words that define Marcos Freitas — the silver medallist at the 2015 European Table Tennis Championships. The world No. 14 is the second highest-ranked player in the inaugural edition of the Ultimate Table Tennis League (UTT), where he will play for the Dabang Smashers outfit.

“This is history,” says a visibly excited Freitas. “This is the first time that we have this kind of a concept and is also my first time in India, so I'm very excited.”

Hailing from the island region of Madeira, the left-handed paddler made his national debut in 2004 and has been popular on the circuit since. “I know every player who's here, I’ve been playing with them for many years,” he says, adding that the Indian players are close to him too. “I know the Indian players well. They may not have the best conditions for everyday practice, but they have great talent.”

The 29-year-old is stoked to be playing with Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Anthony Amalraj, two Indian players he's been in close touch with since the junior level. “I’ve know them for many years. They're very talented and have produced some great results. Hopefully they will learn a lot from this experience.”

Adding that both of them are from Chennai, the venue for the first leg of the UTT, he expects a lot of local support. “Both of them are from Chennai and I hope we get a lot of support from their friends and family.”

Commenting on the format of the league, the Portuguese says, “Many games are going to be very tough. Even though I might be the favourite in a few games, anything is possible, especially because of the format. It's a short game and with only three games, anything can happen.”

In addition to the short format, there is also the Golden Point rule, which will make things further exciting. “When the scores are tied 10-10, the winner of the next point wins the game and that is something we're not used to. It will be fun not only for the players but for the spectators as well,” he quipped.

While the sport is generally seen as a one versus one sport, the mixed doubles will add a twist to the game. “With a mix of all the different playing styles, I think the mixed doubles will be very interesting to watch. These are the games where one cannot predict who will win because anything can happen.”

Asked if he feels any extra pressure being the second-highest ranked player in the league, he seems to feel none of it. “I've been in the top 20 for the last four years, so I'm used to the pressure. Everybody wants to win against me, but I also want to defeat them! There's no pressure,” he adds, with a disarming smile.

With his attacking style of play, Freitas reached his career highest ranking of number seven in 2015, but is not perturbed by the slight fall to number 14. “Whether I'm No. 7 or 14 or 20, it's the same to me. The most important is to win medals in the big tournaments, like the Olympics, European championships and World championships. These wins stay forever.”

“I'm always looking to improve. To win an Olympic medal is my ultimate goal,” he says, signing off with clear-cut determination.