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Now India to have a franchise-based table tennis league

MUMBAI: 11EVEN SPORTS, a company formed exclusively to promote table tennis in India, has partnered with Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) to launch a franchise-based league, ‘Ultimate Ping Pong’ (UPP).

The inaugural season will be played from 13-30 July in three different cities – Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai and will witness participation from six franchises.

The first two legs will be held in Chennai and Delhi before the event shifts base to Mumbai for the finale.

Each franchise will comprise eight paddlers – two Indian men players, two Indian women players, two foreign men players and two foreign women players.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has provided a dedicated window for UPP.

UPP will feature a total of 48 world class paddlers (24 men’s players and 24 women’s players) including 24 Indians. They are set to battle it out for the ultimate championship and prize pool of $450000 (Rs 3 crore), making it the highest ever prize money for a table tennis event in the country.

Bajaj Group CMD Niraj R. Bajaj has come on board with ESPL as a co-promoter of UPP.

Bajaj’s interest in UPP and vision to promote table tennis in India stems from his days as a three-time All India Champion. An Arjuna Award recipient, he has represented India from 1970 to 1977, being captain for the last four years.

Said Bajaj, “Table Tennis is close to my heart and I have been contributing to the development of the sport. With Ultimate Ping Pong I found the right platform to begin our journey in making India a medal contending nation in table tennis at the Olympics.”

ESPL recently concluded India’s first ever Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open with support of TTFI in Delhi in February 2017. With UPP, it plans to take table tennis to a larger audience in the country.

ESPL chairperson Vita Dani said, “We are extremely glad to move forward in promoting table tennis in India with the introduction of Ultimate Ping Pong. We received great feedback both nationally and internationally with the way India Open was organised and UPP will take the sport to greater heights with fans getting to witness 48 of the top paddlers.”

ITTF president Thomas Weikert said, “ESPL recently organised Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open very productively and we received great feedback from various participating players and coaches. We wish all success to Ultimate Ping Pong and look forward to increase the reach and interest of the game in India.”

TTFI president Dushyant Chautala added, “We are extremely proud to be associated with the Ultimate Ping Pong as it is one of the most premier events for the sport ever to be held on an annual basis in India. We thank 11EVEN SPORTS for their efforts to build table tennis and are sure that UPP will act as a catalyst to build everyone’s interest in the sport and get youngsters interested to play the game.”