He has been the poster boy for Indian table tennis for almost two decades. It will be fitting that a day after turning 41, A. Sharath Kamal will lead the charge for Chennai Lions’ defence against Puneri Paltan TT on Thursday in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) opener, the franchise-based table tennis league that returns after a three-year hiatus.
Just like the third edition of UTT was played in New Delhi as the solitary host city, the fourth season - after a prolonged, pandemic-induced break, will be played at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports City here over the next 18 days.
More than the title defence, Sharath - just like most of the UTT regulars across the globe - was excited with the return of the league that will feature six teams. “A lot of young Indian table tennis players get to be a part of it, which is really great for Indian table tennis,” Sharath said on Wednesday.
UTT has a unique format wherein each tie witnesses five matches of three games each. The combined tally of 15 games is taken into account while calculating the points table, with the top four teams progressing to the semifinals.
While Sharath will bank on Germany’s Benedikt Duda and India’s Olympian Sutirtha Mukherjee to help the Chennai outfit to get off the blocks, the Paltan will be banking on Hana Matelova of Czech Republic and Egypt’s Omar Assar - to do the trick for the home team.
Matelova is chuffed to continue her impressive UTT record in her third appearance, while Assar - who has impressed on the international circuit over the last year - will hope to inspire promising southpaw Manush Shah to come good at the big stage.
Chennai Lions vs Puneri Paltan TT, 7.30 pm
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