After the great success of last year, India's professional league 'Ultimate Table Tennis' will start into its second season on Thursday. In the new season, the organizers rely on the proven mix of local players and stars from abroad. And so some (future) stars from the Tischtennis Bundesliga (TTBL) are playing in India, too.

For several months now, the marketing machinery of the Indian table tennis league 'Ultimate Table Tennis' (UTT) is back in full swing. The ambitious project, which celebrated its highly acclaimed premiere in the summer of 2017, is now entering its second round. The organizers skillfully staged milestones in their numerous social media channels this spring, such as the signing of international stars, the draft of the teams or the presentation of the new trophy. Season 2 is kicked off tomorrow in the Indian city of Pune. There, at 7 pm local time Maharashtra United face Falcons TTC.

Kristian Karlsson

Challenged on day 1: Kristian Karlsson (Photo: Weber)

The main concept of the league remains untouched compaired to last year. Each of the six teams consists of both Indian players and international stars from Europe, Asia and Africa. Four men and four women make up a team. In the first match, two players from the Tischtennis Bundesliga (TTBL) face each other, who did not play in India last year. Düsseldorf's newly crowned triple winner Kristian Karlsson joined Maharashtra United, Alvaro Robles from the Bundesliga rival TTC Schwalbe Bergneustadt wears the colors of the defending champion Falcons TTC, whose captain is the former Ochsenhausen player Liam Pitchford. Leader of Maharashtra United is the Portuguese and former Saarbrücken player Joao Monteiro.

Achanta and Gnanasekaran are playing, too

Of course, India's poster boys Kamal Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran cannot be missed in this ambitious project, both leading their teams as captains. While Achanta, who returns to Düsseldorf next season, unlike the previous year will now play for the Warriors T.T.C, Gnanasekaran will serve for the Dabang Smashers T.T.C. again. At the big press conference on Tuesday, the 25-year-old said that UTT has contributed to his rapid rise in the world ranking. "UTT has created a platform for Indian players. I was the only undefeated player last season and it gave me the confidence to do well on the World Tour."

Benedikt Duda

Full of anticipation: Simon Gauzy (Photo: BeLa Sportfoto)

This year, Ochsenhausen's Simon Gauzy, who is captain of the Empowerji Challengers, will be the UTT player with the highest world ranking (12.). His team is challenged for the first time on Friday and the Frenchman is already looking forward to his UTT premiere: "I had watched it last season on Facebook and everybody who had played said they had a good time. I’m very happy to be here."

Mode and rules

There are seven matches per tie, each consisting of three games. Each game won counts as one point for the team. With a maximum of 27 possible games, the team winning 14 games, wins the tie. However, the tie is played to its end anyway, as the games won are reflected in the table as well. The table is calculated according to the following order: points won, ties won, games won.

The main round, which ends when all teams have played each other once, is followed by the play-offs, which are played according to a similar pattern as in the TTBL. In the semi-finals, the first-placed meets the fourth in the table, while the second-placed team meets the third-best team of the main round. The two winners will then fight for the title in the big finale in Kolkata on July 1. The overall winner will be richer by Rs. 1 crore while the runners-up will bag Rs. 75 lakh. Both losing semifinalists will get Rs. 25 lakh each.

To UTT's official website.

The teams

Empowerji Challengers: Lee Hoo Ching, Georgina Pota, Simon Gauzy (C), Manav Thakkar ,Tiago Apolonia, Divya Deshpande, Arjun Ghosh, Prapti Sen

Dabang Smashers T.T.C: Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (C), Sakura Mori, Yoshida Masaki, Manika Batra, Adriana Diaz, Archana Kamath, Sanish Amekbar, Cedric Nuytinck

Falcons TTC: Sanil Shetty, Bernadette Szöcs, Matilda Ekholm, Liam Pitchford (C), Alvaro Robles, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Ronit Bhanja, Priyadarshini Das

Maharashtra United: Kristian Karlsson, Elizabeta Samara, Almiraj Anthony, Madhurika Patkar, Joao Monteiro (C), Lily Zhang, Selena Selvakumar, Utkarsh Gupta

RP-SG Mavericks: Doo Hoi Kem, Mattias Karlsson, Harmeet Desai (C), Kou Lei, Ayikha Mukherjee, Mouma Das, Siddhesh Pande, Sabine Winter

Warriors T.T.C.: Chuang Chih-Yuan, Sofia Polcanova, Kamal Achanta (C), Aruna Quadri, Hana Matelova, Pooja Sahasrabudhe, Sreeja Akula, Ravindra Kotiyan

Header photo: ITTF