World top 30 paddlers to play in Qatar Open
In what is a major confirmation of the growing popularity and acceptance of the ITTF World Tour Qatar Table Tennis Open, all the global top thirty ranked paddlers have confirmed their participation at this year’s tournament. The $220,000 total prize money event, the 20th edition, will be held at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena in Al Sadd, Doha, from March 23-27. Speaking to Qatar Tribune recently, Khalil Ahmed al Mohannadi, President of the Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) said, “The association is happy to announce that this year’s tournament will be more competitive than ever as we will be having the privilege of hosting the thirty best players in the world, among other players, in both the women and men categories.“Qatar Open has grown to be widely recognized as one of the best-organised tournaments on the World Tour and all the players are keen to showcase their skills and compete here particularly considering that this is an Olympic year,” he added. Mohannadi, who is also the deputy president of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), added that the competition has been moved to the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena in Al Sadd from the previous venue, Ladies Indoor Hall at Aspire Zone, due to the rising profile of the competition. “We are raising our level of organization a notch higher and we believe that hosting it at a prestigious place like the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena will add more gloss to the already glamorous competition,” Mohannadi said. With the latest development, table tennis fans in the country are definitely in for an exciting time as they will have the opportunity of watching the star players including the Chinese top-four - Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike, as well as Germany's Ovtcharov Dimitrij, the world No.5 and world No. 6 Mizutani Jun of Japan among others in the male category. The female paddlers will be headlined by Liu Shiwen, Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling all from China, while the Japanese duo Ishikawa Kasumi and Fukuhara Ai, the world No. 4 and 5 respectively, are expected to give the Chinese a run for their money. Winners in both the male and female singles will earn $23,800 respectively while finalists will receive $12,100 for their efforts. The two semifinalists in both categories will be rewarded with $6,500 each. Speaking about the recent merit award given to him by the ITTF on the sidelines of the recently concluded Perfect World Team Table Tennis Championships held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mohannadi said that the award was given in recognition of what the QTTA in promoting the sport not only in Qatar but throughout the region. “This is the first time an Arab will be given the merit award since its inception. The award is given every four years and we are happy to be the first to win it in the Arab world. It was given as a mark of recognition of what we (QTTA) are doing to promote the sport not only in Qatar but in the entire region as well,” said Mohannadi, who joined the board of ITTF in 2001 and became an Executive Committee member in 2005 before becoming its deputy president in 2014. Meanwhile, the Ambassador of China to Qatar HE Li Chen on Thursday paid a courtesy visit to the QTTA office at the Al Bidda Tower in Doha. Speaking during the visit, the Chinese ambassador said he was happy with the wonderful cooperation that exists between the embassy and the association. “QTTA has several Chinese coaches and players under its employ and the commitment of the association to the development of the sport is quite immense. We are happy to partner with the association and we are equally happy with the organization of the ITTF World Tour Qatar Open over the years,” he said. Ambassador Chen said the embassy is ready to give the association all the needed supports to ensure the further growth of the sport in the country.