As we look back at a successful second season of the CEAT UTT, we take a glance at the Indian players who set the stage on fire with their performances. As the format of the league underwent a few changes this season, the games took a turn for the better, with quicker rallies and power-packed gameplay on display all around.
The list of the top five Indian players compiled based on games won sees familiar performers from season one in the form of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra, and new entrants in the form of Harmeet Desai, Amalraj Anthony and Manav Thakkar.
1. Manika Batra
Manika Batra truly established herself as one of India’s brightest stars in the sport this year, winning 2 Gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and helping her team Dabang Smashers win the second season of CEAT UTT.
Manika played a total of 21 games and won 12 of them amassing 201 points for the Champions, with a win percentage of 58%. In doing so, she is the only Indian player to have a win percentage above 50% that includes a double victory over the higher-ranked Matilda Ekholm of Falcons TTC, exploiting her famed long-pimpled rubber on the racquet to counter any spin thrown her way.
2. Sathiyan Gnanasekaran
Sathiyan came into Season 2 on the back of an unbeaten run in Season 1. The streak continued until midway through the new campaign, till he lost to RP-SG Mavericks’ Mattias Karlsson. Sathiyan was aided by his lethal serves, which often found no answer from his opponents. Sathiyan managed to win 10 games out of 21 that he played in Season 2. He also formed the league’s most formidable mixed-doubles partnership with Japanese star Sakura Mori, as they won all seven matches that they played.
3. Harmeet Desai
A new entrant in the top-five list is Harmeet Desai. The young paddler from Surat has had a meteoric rise in the ITTF World ranking and credibility this year, as he captained the RP-SG Mavericks into the semi-finals of Season 2. Harmeet built quite a reputation for the monstrous spin he generated on his service and his quick decision-making that brought down opponents like Quadri Aruna and Masaki Yoshida. He also did well while partnering Doo Hoi Kem in the mixed doubles and will look back at a highly satisfying season on a personal level.
4. Amalraj Anthony
Veteran Amalraj Anthony was one of the most passionate athlete in Season 2 of CEAT UTT. The Maharashtra United star gave us one of the most gripping matches of the season when he beat Dabang Smashers’ Cedrick Nuytinck at a time when his team desperately needed a victory. It proved to be the turning point for the team as they were in the bottom-two for most of the season but managed to qualify for the semi-finals.
5. Manav Thakkar
The final player on the list is the promising youngster from Empowerji Challengers, Manav Thakkar. Manav earned quite a lot of admirers in the second season of the CEAT UTT, winning games over the likes of Kou Lei, Kristian Karlsson and Quadri Aruna. His seven wins out of 18 games are in no way a measure of his talent, and he is only going to get better with age.
Other noteworthy mentions who did not make the list are RP-SG Mavericks’ Ayhika Mukherjee, who enthralled everyone with her technique and guile, Warrior TTC’s Sharath Kamal, who rose to world rank 33 recently in the ITTF World Rankings. We will see them in action when the Asian Games get underway in a couple of weeks in Jakarta.