Nearly 2K entries a testament to paddlers’ seriousness in National Ranking TT

Vadodara, Nov 20 (FN Bureau) A cursory look at the 1,923 entries for thethird UTT National Ranking Table Tennis Championships, beginninghere on Tuesday at the SAMA Stadium, suggests two things: thesignificance of the event and the players’ intent to keep theirrankings in the top bracket at all times.The new thinking among the players is perhaps because of the leeway inTTFI’s selection criteria that allow the best-four rankings out ofseven contests across sections, besides in the mixed doubles. Theselection of players for international events hinges on the cumulativepoints awarded for world and national rankings. Though the top 50ranked paddlers get an advantage over the rest, several of our playershave not been able to maintain the world rankings, forcing them totake national ranking events like the one at Vadodara seriously. Only Manika Batra has the WR luxury and can afford to skip suchtournaments and concentrate on WTT events. But not the others,including the once the top-ranked Indian, G. Sathiyan. Sharath Kamalhad competed in the first two ranking championships and has not senthis entry for the event here like Manav Thakkar, who is a local boy(from Surat).

Barring them and Manika, all the top players, includingreigning national champions, are in the fray, trying to up the antebefore the selection for the World Championships and Olympic qualifications early next year. The Table Tennis Association of Baroda hosted in January the firsttournament after the new executive body of TTFI took charge, and it ishosting the second tournament in the same calendar year. Notwithstanding the festival season travel rush, the players’ enormoussupport lends something about the venue, an ideal stadium environmentto conduct a tournament of this magnitude in this part of Gujarat. The absence of Manav may not hurt the locals much as Manush Shah and Harmeet Desai, who are among the top-ranked players, will fill thevoid created by Manav, and go for a shot at the title. Of course, ahost of other paddlers from the state would lend vocal support to themeven as they contest for top positions. Of course, the Asian Games doubles bronze medal winners Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ayhika will rub shoulders with the rest to prove theirvalue addition.

Ayhika, who lost to Diya Chitale the title she won inHyderabad, will gun for her second crown this season, while the juniorfrom RBI will be flying high to square off again with the seniorpro-Ayhika. Sreeja Akula would return with full vigour after injury rehabilitation. The events get underway with the qualifications in Men, Women, U-19Boys and U-19 Girls from tomorrow and will follow with the lower-agecategory events. After the first four days, the city will witness adeluge of players, especially the younger lot, accompanied by their parents and occupying every hotel in and around the stadium. Similarly, players in the rest of the categories, particularly aboveunder-15, would make their presence count when they compete in theclose to Rs. 9-lakh prize money tournament. Competition Manager N. Ganeshan said the organisers would use STIGAequipment besides DHS balls for the senior events. Mangesh Mopker willbe the referee and ably assisted by Deepak Sarvaiya and S. Sridhar ashis deputy. They will rely on the national and international umpiresto oversee the conduct of matches.