G. Sathyan and Madhurika Patkar will be the top seeds in the National Ranking (Central Zone) Table Tennis Championships starting at the Abhay Prashad Indoor Stadium here on Monday.
This is the first time the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has conducted an open draw for a domestic tournament for the sake of transparency.
The six-day meet will start with singles in the seniors sections, will involve 16 men's teams, eight women's team and eight teams each in the youth and junior boys and girls categories.
Sathiyan, the top seed in men's singles, was thrilled with the TTFI's decision to conduct an open draw.
"A great shift by the TTFI and I endorse it. It gives you a kind of satisfaction. Sometimes you need a bit of luck, but you can't complain," he said.
Sathiyan will have a chance to make most of the absence of top-ranked Indians, including Achanta Sharath Kamal and Soumyajit Ghosh.
Among the women, Pooja Sahasrabuddhe is seeded third behind Patkar, the national champion, and Suthirtha Mukherjee.
"I have a fair idea of who my potential opponent in the quarter-finals could be. This is a luxury in a domestic competition. It's a good system and it is here to stay," Pooja said.
Joining the chorus were two former national champions Arup Basak and A. Radhika, who are now manning the ongoing India camp here along with foreign expert Massimo Costantini.
"How we wish the system was prevalent during our playing days. It gives great leverage to players to work on mentally on matches ahead," Radhika said.
Massimo said it was a very good step in the right direction.
"There is no room for complaint and players can see the fairness of the draw," he said.
The 16 seeded men players, along with eight women seeds and eight each in Youth and Junior Boys and Girls, who have all been given direct entry in the main draw, will have nothing to do with the group qualification action which gets underway on Monday morning.
Any season opener is crucial to players as, after a gap of five months, they have to begin afresh barring those players who have been competing in international events. Hence, all participants will be keen to get a nice start and last the full course to garner maximum ranking points and a decent portion of the prize purse, totalling nearly Rs 6 lakh.
All top players, who are part of Team India scheme, know that only a consistent and good performance can help them keep their places intact. For that to happen, a good outing is a must and one can anticipate a fierce fight as luckily the Central Zone boasts of all top players' participation in each of the 10 sections. Of late, India's young guns have been doing well and it will be their endeavour to make a mark in the championships, paving the way for a secured future.
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