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Players raring to go as team events return to table tennis nationals

Chennai: The UTT 84th edition of the Inter-State Junior and Youth National Championships, beginning at the Nehru Indoor Stadium tomorrow, promise interesting contests among 27 Boys and 25 Girls teams for the coveted team titles in the Under-19 sections. However, in the Junior categories (Under-17), only singles and doubles events will be held.

All the states that sent their teams have been eagerly waiting for this occasion for the last two seasons, as the previous edition took place in Jammu in 2019. With Covid-19 intervening, the government guidelines prevented larger gatherings, forcing TTFI with the Nationals with singles-only events across all sections. Mercifully, the pandemic phase is over, and the 750 entries here mean serious business.

Even the hosts of the championships, the Tamil Nadu Table Tennis Association (TNTTA), had to wait for 19 years before getting a chance to bid and get the go-ahead from TTFI. Understandably, TNTTA, under the leadership of dynamic T. Dhevanathan Yadav, is leaving no stone unturned to make the event as memorable as possible for the teams.

With no team events in the last two years, the competition department of TTFI has considered the rankings of the top three players from each state for seeding purposes. Yet it is difficult to predict the teams that will eventually lift the trophies. Such is the combination of some teams–Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana and Delhi, besides hosts Tamil Nadu–that they have at least one player leading each pack with an envious world ranking to boot.

Take, for instance, Yashaswini Ghorpade of Karnataka, ranked No. 12 in the world in the Under-19 category, or Suhana Saini of Haryana, who is No. 15 and No. 5 in Under-17. Taneesha Kotecha of Maharashtra, who claimed the Girls’ crown in the Khelo India Youth Games in Indore last week, is in red-hot form and would be itching to help her state win the title with a helping hand from Jennifer Varghese, Sayali Wani and Sampada Bhiwandkar.

Suhana, who missed out on a medal, has good company in Prithoki Chakraborty, and both are able paddlers to turn the tables against any team on a given day. Yashashwini, the bronze medal winner at Indore, would like to combine with Anargaya Manjunath and challenge the existence of other contenders. However, Karnataka will be wary of an off-form Anargaya.

As for the hosts, Tamil Nadu will bank on M. Hansini, their best bet, to lead them into the medal brackets with support from experienced Kavyashree Baskar, Sharavani Nagam and Nalene Subaash. UP has a fine line-up in Suhana Mahajan, Ambika Gupta and Avani Tripathi. On the other hand, Gujarat will solely depend on Namna Jayswal to pull them through.

Delhi will look up to Lakshita Narang, the silver medal winner at Indore, in the company of Avisha Karmakar, Riddhima Kapoor and Sayanika Maji to take them to the medal round. Kerala, ranked No.7, will rely on the experienced Pranati P. Nair, Cicily Maria, Smrithi Krishna and Tia Mundenkurian.

The first four days will see action from Under-17 and Under-19 Girls, including the team events in the U-19 Girls, and the Boys will pick up the threads from February 13, after the Girls vacate the arena on February 12.

According to competition manager N. Ganeshan, veteran Anil Dubey will be the referee for the championships, and his deputy will be Mangesh Mopkar. They will have the assistance of 45 Gold Badge, Blue Badge, and International and National umpires in the smooth conduct of the events. He also said that Stag tables and balls will be used during the championships.

After the open draw, the 25 teams were divided into eight groups of three each, except the last group which has four.

Group 1: Maharashtra, Goa, Pondicherry.

Group 2: Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Daman & Diu.

Group 3: Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand.

Group 4: West Bengal, Chandigarh, Assam.

Group 5: Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Telangana.

Group 6: Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan.

Group 7: Kerala, Odisha, Bihar.

Group 8: Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Chhattisgarh.




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