Elite international table tennis is returning with three major events to be held in China in November.
The International Table Tennis Federation has announced the sport’s heartland will stage the Uncle Pop ITTF Women’s World Cup on 8 to 10 November, the Liebherr ITTF Men’s World Cup on 13 to 15 November and the ITTF Finals on 19 to 22 November.
The host cities will be announced in due course.
The events form part of the ITTF’s #Restart initiative marking the resumption of the international circuit, which has been suspended since March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and are being organised with the support for the Chinese Table Tennis Association.
China’s General Administration of Sports had announced in July that, other than test events linked to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, there would not be any international sporting events in the country for the rest of the year because of ongoing concerns over Covid-19.
However, an exception has been made for table tennis as the sport looks to return with a bang, albeit with the necessary health and safety protocols in place.
In light of the new plans, the scheduled Women’s World Cup event in Bangkok, Thailand and Men’s World Cup event Düsseldorf, Germany in November will not be taking place in November, and the ITTF has thanked the two countries for their co-operation.
Welcoming the restart, ITTF president Thomas Weikert said: “Ensuring a safe return to international table tennis has been our utmost priority ever since the pandemic broke out and so I am delighted that, with the fantastic support and hard work carried out by everyone at the ITTF over several months, we have managed to get events back up and running before the end of 2020.”
Liu Guoliang, the president of the CTTA, added: “It is very significant that the ITTF has chosen China as the host to restart competitions after what has been an extremely challenging year for our sport. CTTA is honoured to be able to help bring international table tennis tournaments back into action. Thanks to many months of hard work carried out by the ITTF and CTTA, we are able to come out from the darkness and to celebrate our return to the table.
“This is a moment of immense joy for all members of the international table tennis family. We are working closely under the guidance and in cooperation with relevant authorities in China and doing everything possible to make the events a resounding success and to keep the players safe at the same time.”
The World Cup events in China will involve 20 female and 20 male athletes, including the world champion, qualifiers from continental events in Africa, Europe and Pan America, and players selected by world ranking from Asia and Oceania as well as the whole world according to the provisional World Cup playing system, with a maximum of two players per country.
The ITTF Finals will feature the top 16 men and top 16 women table tennis players in the world in singles competitions, with a cap of four players per national association.
The Chinese government’s hitherto tough stance on international events has meant that the likes of Formula 1’s Chinese Grand Prix, ATP and WTA tennis tournaments, including the prestigious WTA Finals, and the WGC-HSBC Champions, Asia’s richest golf tournament, will not be going ahead in the country in 2020.