World No. 10 Bernadette and rising star Sreeja lead exciting line-up for UTT 2024 Player Draft on July 10
01 Jul, 2024

 

New Delhi, July 1, 2024: World No. 10 Romania’s Bernadette Szocs, rising India paddler Sreeja Akula, Nigeria’s ace player Quadri Aruna, and Germany’s Nina Mittelham are among the top players who will spearhead the strong line-up for the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) 2024 Players Draft in Mumbai on July 10.

The 29-year-old Bernadette will be making her third appearance. Quadri, ranked 16th in the world, will be returning for his fourth appearance while World No. 17 Mittelham will be making her UTT debut this year as a total of 47 players, including eight foreign men and women, will be part of the Player Draft and 43 players will get drafted to teams. World No. 24 Sreeja, who recently created history by becoming the country’s first paddler to win a WTT Contender singles title, will be the key attraction among Indians. 

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 gamechanger for Indian table tennis since its inception in 2017. It will be an eight-team league for the first time providing a platform for young Indian paddlers to exhibit their talent alongside the world’s elite players. UTT 2024 is slated to be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai from August 22 to September 7.

Star Indian paddlers 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 already been retained by their respective franchises for the upcoming season.

According to the rules of the Player Draft, only Puneri Paltan Table Tennis, who did not retain a player, and two new teams — Jaipur Patriots and Ahmedabad SG Pipers — will be part of the opening round of the draft. All eight teams will be in action from the second round as each franchise will have to make a six-member squad, consisting of one foreign male and female player and two Indian male and female players.

Besides Sreeja, the roster of home-grown talent in the Player Draft includes Asian Games doubles bronze medallists Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee along with the 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.

Other prominent foreign stars set to be part of 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.

Among the women players, Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut (WR 56), who played an important role in helping Goa Challengers clinch the title last year, Sakura Mori (WR 27), Lily Zhang (WR 30) and Orawan Paranang (WR 36) will be part of the draft. 

The format has undergone a slight alteration with the inclusion of eight teams, that will now be divided into two groups of four teams each. Each franchisee will continue to compete in five ties during the league stage, facing all other teams within their respective group once, alongside two randomly selected teams from the opposing group, determined through a draw.

 

 

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