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Table Tennis

Bernadette Szocs, Sreeja Akula lead star line-up for UTT 2024 draft

Olympic-bound paddlers Sharath, Manika, Sathiyan retained; UTT 2024 to be held in Chennai from August 22 to September 7.

Bernadette Szocs, Sreeja Akula lead star line-up for UTT 2024 draft

Sreeja Akula in action at Ultimate Table Tennis (Photo Credit: UTT) 


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 1 July 2024 12:40 PM GMT

The Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) has unveiled the player list for the UTT 2024 Player Draft, set to take place on July 10 in Mumbai.

Among the top players headlining the event are World No. 10 Bernadette Szocs from Romania, rising Indian star Sreeja Akula, Nigeria's ace player Quadri Aruna, and Germany's Nina Mittelham.

Strong line-up for UTT 2024

The 29-year-old Bernadette Szocs will be making her third appearance in the league.

Quadri Aruna, ranked 16th globally, returns for his fourth appearance.

World No. 17 Mittelham is set for her UTT debut.

The draft will feature a total of 47 players, including eight international men and women. Out of these, 43 players will be drafted into teams.

Sreeja Akula, ranked 24th in the world and the first Indian to win a WTT Contender singles title, will be a key attraction among the Indian players.

Promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani under the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), UTT has been instrumental in transforming Indian table tennis since its inception in 2017.

For the first time, the league will feature eight teams, providing a platform for young Indian paddlers to compete alongside the world’s elite.

UTT 2024 will be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai from August 22 to September 7.

Indian paddlers retained by franchises

Top Indian paddlers like Achanta Sharath Kamal (Chennai Lions), G Sathiyan (Dabang Delhi TTC), Harmeet Desai (Goa Challengers), Manav Thakkar (U Mumba TT), and Manika Batra (PBG Bengaluru Smashers) have been retained by their respective franchises for the upcoming season.

According to the Player Draft rules, only Puneri Paltan Table Tennis, who did not retain a player, and two new teams: Jaipur Patriots and Ahmedabad SG Pipers, will participate in the opening round of the draft.

From the second round, all eight teams will be in action, with each franchise required to form a six-member squad, consisting of one foreign male and female player and two Indian male and female players.

Rising Indian talent

Besides Sreeja Akula, the list of home-grown talent includes Asian Games doubles bronze medallists Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee, and upcoming talents like Yashaswini Ghorpade, Diya Chitale, Poymantee Baisya, and Taneesha Kotecha among women, and Snehit SFR, Jeet Chandra, Manush Shah, and Yashansh Malik among men.

"Indian table tennis has witnessed a tremendous rise in the last few years and having five female players in the Top-100 is a reflection of that growth. The fresh new set of Indian faces in the Player Draft just shows how much table tennis has progressed in India and we are extremely happy that the rise of UTT as a world-class league has contributed significantly to the growth of these young players. I am looking forward to these players leaving a mark on the upcoming season," UTT promoters Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani said in a joint statement.

Prominent foreign players

Other notable foreign stars in the draft include 2024 World Team Table Tennis Championships silver medallists Jules Rolland and Lilian Bardet of France, four-time Olympian and 2015 European Championships doubles gold medallist Joao Monteiro of Portugal, 2019 World Championships doubles silver medallist Alvaro Robles of Spain, and South Korea’s World No. 70 Cho Seungmin.

In the women’s category, Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut (WR56), who was crucial in Goa Challengers' title win last year, Sakura Mori (WR27), Lily Zhang (WR30), and Orawan Paranang (WR36) will be part of the draft.

New league format

With the inclusion of eight teams, the format has been slightly altered. The teams will be divided into two groups of four, each franchise competing in five ties during the league stage, facing all other teams within their group once, and two randomly selected teams from the opposing group, determined through a draw.

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