Chennai, July 10 (PTI) Table tennis in India is on the right track and Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT), the first-ever professional league, which kicks of here July 13, will benefit the country’s players, especially youngsters, said former national champion Kamlesh Mehta.

He sounded upbeat about the tournament and said it could be a great learning experience for the up-and-coming paddlers.

“It is very exciting. What was a dream is about to become a reality. It is a dream come true,” he said about the league, which has been in the making for a few years now.

Asked how it could benefit the sport in the country, Mehta told PTI, “It is going to benefit the game of table tennis. When it benefits the game, it is going to benefit everybody, it is going to benefit state associations, players, coaches, academies.”

“Young players will gain a lot. There are 24 Indian plyers and six coaches. Their standard is going to go up. When you see top level matches live or at close quarters,it is very inspiring.The youngsters can learn several good things.It will have a spiralling effect and lead to overall improvement.” He said Tamil Nadu was always a strong state when it came to table tennis and has been producing quality players over the years, who had gone on to play at the highest level.

“TN is one of the strong states. There is a huge legacy and talent pool. You had players like Thiruvengadam, G Jagannath, V Chandrasekar, Niyati… Now, we have A Sharath Kamal, A Amalraj, G Sathiyan and others. It is good to see new names coming up,” he said.

Also,the country had been doing well at the international level, he said adding “the players’ rankings have gone up.

There are seven to eight players in the top 100. The future looks very bright.”

Meanwhile, players expressed their happines to be part of the inaugural UTT. Sharath Kamal said it was a good concept and would be a good exposure for the young players.

“The young Indian players can learn a lot from the foreign stars, especially by playing with them. It is going to stand them in good stead,” he said.

Portugal’s Marcos Freitas at 14, one of the top-ranked men’s players to feature here, said, “it is a new concept but looks interesting. It is good that new things are being tried out in TT.”

Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, a quarterfinalist at the Rio Olympics last year, said he was looking forward to playing in UTT and fans would could expect some good table tennis. He would be playing Oilmax-Stag Yoddhas which also features among others Indian ace Manika Batra.

The other players, including Germany’s Sabine Winter, who would team up with Sharath Kamal, Wu Yang (Falcons TTC) and Pooja Sahashrabuddhe said they were happy to be part of the league and expected to feature in interesting matches.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.