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Qatar Table Tennis Open gets underway

World No. 5 Ovtcharov hails Doha event as the best on the World Tour

The 2016 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open serves off with fan-fare and glamour with matches in the qualifying rounds on the opening day at the Ali Bin ha-mad Al Attiyah Arena in Doha on Wednesday. For the first time in the his-tory of the tournament, all the world top-thirty ranked players are among the 200 participants from 44 countries, who will be showcasing their skills and tal-ents in the $220,000 total prize money event which ends on March 27. The hosts, Qatar, is be-ing represented at the five-day event by Ahmad Khalil al Mo-hannadi, Fahad al Mughni, Lee Beng, Mohammad Abdulwahab and Abdulrahman al Naggar. In one of the first matches of the preliminary rounds on Wednesday, Qatar’s Abdulrah-man al Naggar lost in a six-game thriller 2-4 (4-11, 12-10, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9, 11-4,) to Fin-land’s Benedek Olah. The 18-year-old Naggar, who was making a return to international action after being sidelined for about four months due to a back injury, was un-derstandably match-rusty after the lengthy layoff as his serves and return strokes were suspect throughout the game. “I’ve been able to practise for about four weeks but this is the first competition I’ve en- tered since I returned to play from my injury”, said Naggar, who finished last year at no.8 on the ITTF Junior Circuit Boys’ Standings. Notably he won in Tunisia; unfortunately injury prevented him from playing in the Finals staged earlier this year in Indore, India. "I didn’t feel secure when I played today; the number one reason why I lost was that I did not have a good feeling for the ball. I couldn’t return the ball short,” he added. In the other match of the day, Poland’s Kinga Stefanska, the world No. 198, came out vic-torious during her game against hong Kong’s Jiang huajun. The 35-year-old player, who is one of the oldest in the women's cat-egory defeated huajun 4-2 (8-11, 11-2, 11-4, 11-7, 4-11, 11-6), to keep her hopes of a place in the main draw alive. It was a major upset of the day considering the gulf in ranking between the players as the hong Kong player is cur-rently ranked 31. Meanwhile, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the world No. 5 player has described the Qatar Open has the best tourna-ment on the ITTF World Tour. Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the tournament on Wednesday, the Ukrainian-born German bronze medalist in both singles and team event at the London Olympics said, “The food, transport, accommo-dation and every other aspects of the tournament have always been superb and with what I have seen so far, this year ap-pears to be even better than the previous.” he pointed out that the ven-ue of this year’s competition is one of the best he has ever seen.Talking about the domi-nance of the Chinese players in the sport over the years, the 27-year-old Dusseldorf resident said, “Though, this year’s tour-nament will be more competi-tive than ever as all the Chinese top players including the top-three Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Zu Xin are here, I believe other players are good enough to give them a run for their money.” “Last week’s tournament in Kuwait was a perfect example of the fact that the Chinese are beatable as I narrowly lost out to Zhang Jike 3-4 while Japan’s Jun Mizutani was almost de-feating Xu Xin as well. In all, I expect a very good competition in Doha,” he said. For Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, a two-time winner in Doha and the current defend-ing champion, another win in the competition is one of his major ambitions and he would be more than happy to be a member of the exclusive club of three-time winners currently held by Xu Xin, Zoran Primorac of Croatia and the now-retired Wang Liqin. Talking

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