PANAJI: Goa Challengers will be seen in action once again as India’s top table tennis league — Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT), is set to return after a three-year hiatus and is scheduled to be held from July 13-30, 2023, at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune.
Goa Challengers finished 4th in the third season of UTT in 2019 and will be looking to go all the way this time. The franchise-based league — promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani under the auspices of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), has been a game-changer for Indian table tennis since its inception in 2017.
Besides bringing world-class table tennis action to India, the league has witnessed the emergence of star Indian talent such as Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Manav Thakkar, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Manika Batra, who attracted the attention of the country with their stunning performances in the inaugural seasons of UTT.
“Our main goal with launching UTT was to popularise the sport in India. And the ever-increasing positive responses season by season were heartening to see. Unfortunately, the league couldn’t take place after 2019, but here we are again, as committed as we were on the first day in 2017 to take table tennis in this country to the next level. And to add another world-class league to this vast mix in India,” co-promoter Niraj Bajaj commented.
The league was last played out in Delhi in 2019, where Chennai Lions, spearheaded by Indian table tennis legend Sharath Kamal won the third edition by beating Sathiyan’s Dabang Delhi TTC in the final. The second edition was won by Dabang Delhi TTC, led by Manika Batra and Sathiyan, while Falcons TTC won the first edition.
“We are absolutely delighted to announce the return of Ultimate Table Tennis. COVID put the league to a tough halt. But after three long years, our efforts to popularise and grow the sport in India will continue. Hand in hand with the TTFI, we will continue to provide a platform for talent in the country. And I want to take this opportunity to thank the federation for its support,” UTT chairperson Vita Dani said.
Five of the six franchises that will participate in the forthcoming edition continue from 2019 — U Mumba TT, Puneri Paltan Table Tennis, Goa Challengers, Dabang Delhi TTC and RPSG Mavericks Kolkata.
The league welcomes its newest franchise — Bengaluru Smashers — owned and promoted by Punit Balan, who heads the Punit Balan Group and is a philanthropist and new-age sports investor with franchises across Ultimate Kho-Kho, Tennis Premier League and the Premier Handball League.
Commenting on the return of the league, the sport’s governing body in the country issued a statement: “The Table Tennis Federation of India is happy to support and encourage a league that is determined to grow the game in India. UTT has helped put India on the world map in regards to hosting a world-class event in the country and attracting the finest talent from the world. We wish UTT all the success in the upcoming season,” TTFI President Meghna Ahlawat and Secretary General Kamlesh Mehta said in a joint statement.