BUDAPEST, Hungary: With less than six weeks remaining until table tennis’ biggest event of the year kicks off, a record 609 players representing 109 national associations have been confirmed for the 2019 ITTF World Championships to be held here from April 21-28.
The growth in participation number forms a positive step ahead of the ITTF introducing an expanded Worlds format in 2021, which aims to increase national association participation of 47% closer to 100% global representation as more players will have a greater opportunity to take part thanks to the new World Championship stages.
Following their triumphs in China’s qualification tournament, the ‘Marvellous 12’, Fan Zhendong and Chen Meng made sure of their places in China’s men’s and women’s singles categories respectively.
Fan, the men’s world No.1, will be joined by reigning world champion Ma Long while three more of the nation’s highest ranked players -- Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan and Liang Jingkun -- complete the quintet in the men’s singles category.
Wang Chuqin, meanwhile, will compete in the doubles alongside Ma.
In the women’s singles, reigning world champion and world No.1, Ding Ning, alongside Chen Meng, Liu Shiwen, Wang Manyu and Sun Yingsha are some of the top names.
Sun is very much a player in form and selectors of the Chinese Table Tennis Association have preferred her to world No.2, Zhu Yuling, who finished joint fifth at the Marvellous 12. Zhu, however, is confirmed for the doubles.
Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito secured their selection for this year’s edition as a result of winning the Men’s and Women’s Singles titles respectively at Japan’s National Championships this January.
Tomokazu Harimoto and Koki Niwa, alongside Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano gained their places by virtue of their world ranking.
Meanwhile, Masataka Morizono and Miyu Kato sealed their spots by emerging successful in last week’s qualification tournament, leaving Hitomi Sato and Kazuhiro Yoshimura as the coaches’ selections.
Europe’s biggest names
Thirty-eight years old last Friday, world No.5, Timo Boll (GER) will be making his 19th World Championships career appearance.
Germany’s men’s singles quintet of Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Patrick Franziska, Ricardo Walther and Ruwen Filus are chasing the nation’s first ever singles title.
This will be the 23rd World Championships for Vladimir Samsonov (BLR) — a record among current players.
Meanwhile, the likes of Liam Pitchford (ENG), Marcos Freitas (POR), Jonathan Groth (DEN), Mattias Falck, Kristian Karlsson (SWE), Simon Gauzy (FRA) and Daniel Habesohn (AUT) will all be looking to make their mark in the Hungarian capital. (Source: ITTF)