Thane: The table tennis caravan has transversely moved from the East to the West for the UTT National Ranking (West Zone) Table Tennis Championships, beginning at the Sulochana Devi Singhania School Sports Academy Hall from tomorrow.
In the fourth of the five zonal events, the 800 odd participants in the 10 events—Men, Women, Youth Boys, Youth Girls, Junior Boys, Junior Girls, Sub-Junior Boys, Sub-Junior Girls, Cadet Boys and Cadet Girls—seem to have retained the level of enthusiasm as much as they did when they began the season in June as the paddlers hope to garner maximum points before the end of season, with just the Central Zone remaining. As for the entries, the number has crossed 1250 which go on to prove that there will be no lack of competition across all sections.
Yet, from the spectators’ point of view, the championships will not see even the likes of South Zone winner Harmeet Desai—he also finished runner-up at Howrah—North Zone winner Anthony Amalraj and, of course, A. Sharath Kamal and G. Sathiyan.
However, the saving grace will be the participation of Manav Thakkar, who won the men singles title in the East Zone along with Krittwika Sinha Roy, the women singles winner, besides Mumbai lad Sanil Shetty. Manav, who is most likely to be seeded No. 1, looks in prime form for the successive crown.
Among the women singles players, all expect Manika Batra—she has skipped fourth successive tournament—will be playing here and that gives a real boost to the organisers who take all the pain to conduct an all-India ranking event like the one here. Nevertheless, a tournament like this offers greater opportunities to those who have made themselves available here, especially enhancing their chance because of the absence of top paddlers.
Unlike the East Zone championships, the competition department will begin with the men and women singles which, in turn, has given an extended festival holiday for the Sub-Junior and Cadet category of players. After the men and women, matches will be held in the Youth, Junior, Sub-Junior and Cadet sections, in that order.
The team events, introduced this season, has been a hit with the state squads from each of the regions but those from West have been clubbed with the Central Zone event, to be held from November 7 at Bhavnagar, to make it more credible. Similarly, the Under-13-Under-15 Boys and Girls events have been moved to make it larger while providing the occasion to kids in the Western and Central belts. However, the mixed doubles, initiated at the Howrah championships, will be a part of the tournament here.
The group matches in men and women sections will keep the players engaged for the first day tomorrow and a major part of the second day when the main draw events are slated to take place.
The championships will see referees A.S.Kler and Mangesh Mopkar taking charge of the proceedings with local man, Rohit Shinde, as their deputy. They will be assisted by 48 Blue Badge, international and national umpires on all six days of the tournament.
According to competition manager, N. Ganeshan, 15 Stag Americas tables, flooring and DHS balls will be used during the championships.