The venue for the 2020 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Just under one year ago in Doha, the 351st ITTF World Tour tournament concluded; although we did not know at the time, owing to the pandemic, it was to bring to a conclusion a concept started a quarter of a century earlier in the English market town of Kettering.
Now, Doha it is the beginning; from Wednesday 3rd to Saturday 6th March, preceded by a qualification tournament, commencing on Sunday 28th February and concluding on Tuesday 2nd March, the first World Table Tennis (WTT) Contender event will be staged.
The basic principle is the same as in the past, qualification followed by main draw but there are notable differences.
In each of the men’s singles and women’s singles events, a maximum of four players per national association permitted, initially only four players who are named in the top 20 of the world rankings at the entry deadline, are accepted ; this is known as the Play Down Restriction (PDR).
The decision in Doha, as to names of the four players in question is based on the following order or preference:
- Players from the host country who appear in the top 20 names.
- Top 20 players in order of ranking.
Thus, for the men’s singles event, those four players are Xu Xin (China), Tomokazu Harimoto (Japan), Hugo Calderano (Brazil) and Lin Yun-Ju (Chinese Taipei); for the women’s singles it is Sun Yingsha (China), Mima Ito (Japan), Liu Shiwen (China) and Cheng I-Ching (Chinese Taipei).
However, in addition there are three wild card nominations available for the host and one for World Table Tennis which may be allocated to players in the top 20 rankings. In Doha at the Contender tournament for the men’s singles it is Dimitrij Ovtcharov (Germany), Liam Pitchford (England), Simon Gauzy (France) and Mattias Falck (Sweden); for the women’s singles those names are Kasumi Ishikawa (Japan), Miu Hirano (Japan), Adriana Diaz (Puerto Rico) and Feng Tianwei (Singapore).
Meanwhile, Lee Sangsu and Cho Daeseong (Korea Republic) head the men’s doubles seeding, for the women’s doubles it is Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano (Japan), for the mixed Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching (Chinese Taipei).
A maximum of eight players, of which only three may be national partnerships, is permitted in each of the men’s doubles and women’s doubles events; in the mixed doubles, it is four players in total per national pairing.
Notably in the men’s doubles and women’s doubles, there is no qualification event, just main draws of 16 pairs; in the mixed doubles, a main draw also of 16 pairs but of whom eight pairs are qualifiers from a preliminary event limited to 32 partnerships.
All matches in doubles events are best of five games, in singles best of five games up to an including the quarter-finals; the semi-finals and final are best of seven games.