Nine-time champion Sharath Kamal will look to improve his record of titles in the National Table Tennis Championship at Sonipat (Haryana) from February 18 to 27.

"I had plans to go to Europe for training but in the prevailing circumstances, I'll stay back and play the championship I love," said Sharath.

Since the previous edition of the National Championship in February last year, no competition was held. In this scenario, all the leading names are expected to participate.

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In spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) initiated steps leading to its flagship event. “So far, 19 of our affiliates have completed their state championship while eight more are in progress,” the TTFI Secretary General M. P. Singh informed Sportstar .

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“Since the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has announced its calendar with two events in Doha, Qatar (from March 3-6 and March 8-13), we wanted to ensure our players are ready to participate in these.

“All the safety protocols and government advisories will be followed, with daily Antigen testing of all involved. The Haryana Government’s Health department will carry out these tests.

“Whether players, coaches, match-officials, parents or support staff, everyone will have to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Test report and produce the clearance certificate on arrival.”

Mr. Singh continued, “After the Nationals, we will hold the Youth and Junior Nationals at Indore, beginning in the first week of March. The action returns to Sonipat for the National cadet and sub-junior championship in the second half of March.

“The participation in the Nationals helps many in getting admission to educational institutes or securing a job. The TTFI was keen to provide an opportunity to these aspirants to perform at the Nationals.”

However, the latest protocols do not permit sharing of rooms.

“Since we need at least 200 rooms for around 10 days, our financial burden on accommodation stands doubled. We hope, in February, when the new protocols come into force, we are allowed to accommodate two players per room,” he said.

In all categories, competitions will be held only in singles. Like doubles, team championships have also been dropped from the schedule.