One of the key features of the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) league's inaugural edition last year was the introduction of a golden point to decide the winner of a game in case the players were tied at 10 points apiece. Joao Monteiro, a seasoned international paddler, hoped that the world governing body, ITTF, would implement the same rule on the international circuit as well.
“I think the golden point was very good. It should be part of the normal Pro Tour. Sometimes the games get too long and it goes to even 21-19. If you have the golden point, it would make the match more intense,” said Monteiro, the Maharashtra United captain, at the trophy launch of UTT's second edition.
UTT deferred from the conventional point system of two-points difference to win a game in order to restrict a game's duration.
The league will be played in three cities from June 14 to July 1. While Pune will host the opening leg from June 14 to 19, the tournament will move to Delhi from June 20 to 25 before the concluding stage to be played in Kolkata from June 26 to July 1.
In consultation with the broadcaster, 11Sports, promoter of the league, has decided to shrink the format to seven matches in a tie – six singles and a doubles – from the last year's nine.
Sharath Kamal, Indian table tennis' flag-bearer on the international stage for over a decade, explained the charm of UTT in comparison with the European leagues.
“I have played all my league table tennis in Germany where the league is played over 10 months, so you have to live there, practice there and then play over weekends. You get time to get yourself in before you start performing,” said Sharath, who will lead Warriors, his second team in as many seasons.
“Whereas in UTT, it's a short span, a three-week window and you have to start winning straight away. That's a different kind of pressure. Plus the fact that this is the only mixed team league also makes it unique.”
While Liam Pitchford, the Englishman who was the first edition's Most Valuable Player, will continue to lead defending champion Falcons TTC, G. Sathiyan, the highest-ranked Indian paddler, will lead Dabang Smashers TTC.
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