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Joao Monteiro comes from a nation that gave soccer stars like Eusebio, Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, but believes that table tennis is popular in Portugal in its own way.
The 33-year-old left-hander said people back home enjoyed the team’s triumph in the European Championship in 2014, which showed table tennis too was enjoyed support in the country and hoped that they can do even better in the coming years.
Having won three gold medals at the continental championship, albeit in different events, Monteiro is keen to use the inaugural Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) to prepare for the coming season and the European Championship in September.
He will turn out for Maharashtra United in the tournament. “I hope UTT will help me improve more as a player and
also be ready for the forthcoming season and the European championship. The aim is to win my fourth gold medal,” he told PTI.
About UTT, which begins here on July 13, Monteiro said “I am very excited to be part of the league. It is a unique
format to be played at the global level for the first time. It will be beneficial for Indian players as they would be along with some top paddlers from across the world. The younger (Indians) will gain a lot of exposure.”
On the format, he said “the best of three games matches means the players need to focus from the beginning. It will
make things interesting for the fans.”
He further said that India’s players had improved a lot over the years and singled out A Sharath Kamal for his solid performances at the international level.
“(Sharath) Kamal has done well and is a formidable player. There are others like Sanil Shetty, Harmeet Singh, G
Sathiyan and a few more, who have improved recently and can get better,” he said, adding that India would do better in the years to come in the sport.
He felt UTT would help young players from India learn by interacting with the foreign stars and learning how they
prepare for matches/tournaments. The southpaw, known for his aggressive play, said, “I like (Spanish tennis player) Rafael Nadal a lot. My style of playing is similar to his. He fights for each point. Like him, I love to show my emotions while playing matches.”
Monteiro, currently ranked 42 in the world, said though he has enjoyed a lot of success in the doubles, he is an
all-round player and hoped to do well in singles too.
About China’s domination of table tennis for several years, he said, “it is because they work very hard and are
technically good. The other countries, including India, are trying to catch up, but will take time.”
On his franchise’s (Maharashtra United) chances in UTT, the Portuguese player said “there are some quality players in our team like Wong Chun Ting (Hong Kong), Liu Jia (Austria) and his compatriot Yu Fu apart from Harmeet Singh. We can hopefully do well and go all the way.”
Speaking about the popularity enjoyed by Ronaldo in Portugal, Monteiro said “he (Cristiano) is a wonderful footballer. He is also a very good guy and helps a lot of people. Wish he can keep thrilling fans across the world for many more years.”