Doha: The ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open, one of the top events on the international table tennis calendar, will feature world’s top players from 43 countries.
Doha is the first stopover of the six Platinum events, which was only a part of ITTF World Tour, and Qatar will be hosting the 23rd edition at the Ali bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena from March 8-11, with qualifying rounds on March 6-7.
“The Qatar Open is a blue riband competition for us. It has put the country on the world map and gave us visibility to the outside,” Qatar Table Tennis Association President Khaleel Ahmed Al Mohannadi told www.dohastadiumplus.com here on Saturday.
China’s Olympic champion Ma Long won the men’s singles title last year, beating compatriot and No.2 seed Fan Zhendong 11-8, 11-8, 11-7, 5-11, 6-11, 11-4 in a gruelling final.
Among the women, Chen Meng defeated Wang Manyu 12-10, 11-9, 11-6, 2-11, 11-6 in an all-China final.
But for the first time, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov will lead the men’s pack in Ma’s absence.
“As China is focussed on the 2020 Tokyo Games, they are keen on promoting juniors,” said Al Mohannadi, who is also a ITTF Deputy President.
Zhendong and Timo Boll are seeded second and third respectively.
In the women’s category, Chen and Zhu Yuling are the top two seeds followed by Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and Wang.
“The strong presence of top players is a testimony to Qatar Open’s importance. Even a couple of editions ago, the organisers used to pay for the players’ lodgings and travel expenses, but since the last couple of years they borne their own expenses to participate in the tournament,” said Al Mohannadi, who is also heads the Arab Table Tennis Federation.