UTT 2019: This is a new era in table tennis, says U Mumba coach

U Mumba coach Soumyadeep Roy says things are coming together for the sport in India, and Ultimate Table Tennis has a big role to play in it.

File Photo: Soumyadeep Roy believes that young Indian paddlers will gain valuable experience training with international players.   -  sandeep saxena

The sport of table tennis in India has entered a new era and is not as nascent as it used to be, Arjuna awardee and former national champion Soumyadeep Roy has said.

Roy, currently coaching U Mumba at the Ultimate Table Tennis, believes an Olympic medal in the sport is not far away. Speaking to Sportstar after his team’s 9-6 victory over RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata, he said, “When [the UTT] started, it helped a lot because we were rubbing shoulders with the top 10 players in the world and then you beat them and then you get that confidence - ‘Oh, even though they play well I can beat them’. That’s what happened.”

He added: “Of course, technique, tactics, hard work is there, but if you don’t believe in yourself, if you don’t have that confidence, you can’t reach there.

So this is what all the top players at every level have. Indian players started believing that, that’s why we see [G.] Sathiyan getting into the top 24, [and Sharath] Kamal playing fabulously. I see three or four other Indian players inching to get there."

"I think this is what UTT has done to Indian players. More than the [technical changes], they have [changed] the mindset of the Indian players – ‘we can also do it.’ We are now No. 10 in the world in men’s rankings.  This is something we should be proud of."

India's progress has been commendable, Roy pointed out.

"I don’t want to compare any sport but table tennis is played in 200-plus countries; and in world championships, there are more than 100 countries participating. We are No. 10 in the world. We have beaten Japan in the Asian Games and we won a bronze this time, so I think we are really inching towards an Olympic medal, and I think this is a new era in Indian table tennis,” he said.

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Besides the league, the federations and the government have been making their efforts to lift the profile of the sport, too, according to Roy. He calls it a “package.”

“I mean it’s a package; the government coming in, putting a lot of funds, promoting table tennis and promoting the juniors and the youth and then federations chipping in with their efforts, and the UTT with its aura. Everything has been clubbed at the same time and has happened all together," Roy said.

Owing to the UTT, Ronit Bhanja has the chance to train with Taiwanese great Chuang Chih-Yuan.   -  Special Arrangement


The former national champion is happy that the young players in India are able to train with big international players and gain valuable experience.

"So this is what has really happened with Indian table tennis and also the point is there are youth players, players 17-18 years old, they are getting a chance to have the top players train with them. Suppose a young player like Ronit Bhanja. He is training with Chuang [Chih-Yuan]. So, this is a huge experience."

"I think he will probably learn one or two things. Not everybody will make a jump, that’s for sure, but whoever will be able to take the small things, the small details, will definitely make that jump,” Roy said.

Commenting on his team’s comeback win on  – U Mumba was trailing 2-4 before the Thakkar-led revival – Roy said: “Overall, it’s a fantastic victory. We started very well in the tournament, the second match was very, very closely contested. We lost two games leading 10-8, it could have gone any way. Here, [we showed] a lot of character. Now we are back in the tournament. Two more matches to go in the league; so I think every match we have to take one at a time. You can’t get complacent, saying we have won it. We will prepare well for the next contest.”

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Despite Thakkar’s intervention, Mavericks could have turned it around via Manika Batra, the team’s No. 1 Indian player, who played the last singles contest of the tie. She had to defeat Sutirtha Mukherjee 3-0 to collect a win for her side. As it turned out, she lost 2-1.

“I knew there was going to be a lot of pressure on Manika. If they had to win, Manika had to win all three games. I told Sutirtha, ‘just don’t think about winning the match, to make it 3-0, just go, play, taking one game at a time. She played [according to her strength] - her backhand, her backhand topspin. That put a lot of pressure on Manika.

Also, [with] that kind of rubber, Manika also depends a lot of opponents making mistakes which [Sutirtha] didn’t [make]. She is quite comfortable in that rubber normally. It’s never an easy match when Manika and Sutirtha play, even in the domestic circuit,” Roy said off.

U Mumba, sitting second in the league table with two wins out of three, next plays Puneri Paltan on Saturday.

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