Thursday, December 02, 2021

Top stars ignore first ever ITTF Word Tour event in India

Sharath Kamal, country's highest-ranked player, said the tournament is a good beginning but it needs to establish itself on the ITTF calendar.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
February 13, 2017 10:33:44 pm
 Photo by: Vipin Pawar / SPORTZPICS Manika Batra got direct entry into the main draw along with Mouma Das and Ankita Das (Photo by: Vipin Pawar)

The deliberate absence of top international table tennis stars, including the Chinese, has taken the sheen off the first ever ITTF World Tour event in India, beginning at the Thyagaraj Sports Complex.

The USD 120,000 India Open also happens to be the biggest ever ITTF event in terms of prize money but despite the rewards on offer, a majority of the big names have given it a miss.

That the tournament failed to generate interest is evident from the 80-player entry list with 28 confirmed in the women’s field and 52 in men.

The scenario, however, was much different at the opening World Tour event in Hungary last month. The prize money on offer was substantially less compared to the India Open but the tournament still attracted 316 entries.

The fundamental question arises: why did the tournament failed to attract the cream of the table tennis world?

“Unfortunately the perception of the table tennis fraternity about India has not changed despite the fact that there has been a lot of improvement on the ground in the last decade or so. Players are still reluctant to travel to India.

They fear falling sick,” India’s leading player Soumyajit Ghosh, who will be in action here, told PTI.

Sharath Kamal, country’s highest-ranked player at 62 and India’s sole direct entry in the men’s singles draw, said the tournament is a good beginning but it needs to establish itself on the ITTF calendar so that more players show interest.

“For India, it can only be good that such a big event is taking place but for the table tennis world to take notice, it needs to be held annually for another three to four years so that the players feel more confident about coming here,” said Sharath.

The mighty Chinese and South Korean are not here but it is not as if the tournament is completely devoid of star power.

World number five Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany will be in action and so will be eighth-ranked Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus. Ovtcharov is no stranger to the country, having won India Open just before the Commonwealth Games in 2010, when the event was part of the ITTF Pro Tour.

Japanese number one and world number four Jun Mizutani is not here but his country will be represented by Koki Niwa (ranked 19th), Yuto Muramatsu (24) and Yuya Oshima (39).

World number 13 Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong is the highest-ranked player in the women’s draw, followed by her teammate Lee Ho Ching (24). World number 88 Manika Batra will be leading the local challenge and is seeded 10th, ahead of compatriots 12th seed Mouma Das, 14th seed Ayhika Mukherjee and 16th seed Ankita Das.

It is a draw of 32 for both and men’s and women’s singles with the top 16 getting a direct entry into the main draw beginning February 16.

The qualification rounds will be held on February 14 and 15, when as many as 29 Indians will vie to make the main draw.

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