Draw held for Seamaster Qatar World Tour Grand Finals
Qatar’s Li Ping to face world No.1 Ma Long in opening match today, Doha, Qatar’s representative at the Rio Olympic Games Li Ping will have his first ‘baptism of fire’ at the Seamaster Qatar World Tour Grand Finals which begins on Thursday as he squares it out against World and Olympic champion Ma Long of China.The season-ending tournament which draws all the top 16 men and women from the 2016 ITTF World Tour is being held at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Arena in Doha from December 8 to 11.
To qualify for the $500,000 tournament, the world’s best players had to battle through 20 World Tour events across the globe to gather enough points for qualification.In all, 80 players from 14 countries are represented at the four-day event that carries a winner’s prize of $60,000 each in both the men’s and women’s categories. The finalist in both category will walk away with $30,000 each while semi-finalist will each receive $15,000. Speaking after the draw ceremony on Wednesday, Long, the top-favourite to defend the title he won in Lisbon in 2015, said, “I am very happy to avoid my friend Xu Xin in the draw. This is my last tournament of the year, so I want to finish the year of my dreams off in style, by winning the World Tour Grand Finals for the fourth time.”“I’ve always loved to come to Doha as I have played some of my best games here. The hospitality here is second to none and I hope my title defence will go according to plans,” said the 28-year-old player, who is also the defending champion of the annual Qatar Open. The result of the draw ensured that the star player will not have to face his Chinese teammates Fan Zhendong, the world number two, and number three-ranked Xin until the final. Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Zhendong, the man that Long beat in last year’s World Tour Grand Final, will be out for revenge for his 2015 defeat, and will want to keep up his momentum from winning the Men’s World Cup earlier in the year.Aside from the Chinese, the Japanese, who are the largest contingent in the men’s event with five players, are one of the major contenders for the highly coveted end-of-the-year crown. Double World Tour Grand Final champion Jun Mizutani, who is making his first international appearance since winning bronze at Rio 2016, is very confident of going the whole hog against the Chinese at the tournament. “I know it’s going to be tough but I believe we are here to spring surprises. The Chinese are the overwhelming favourites but we are ready to give them a run for their money. This is a tournament we are well prepared for and I believe with some luck we can end up victorious,” the 27-year-old player, who became the youngest-ever Japanese national champion at the age of 17, confidently affirmed.Other top contenders for the title include Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, a bronze medalist in Rio, and Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus as well as Hong Kong’s Tang Peng among others.In the ladies’, world number one and defending champion Ding Ning of China, who was drawn against Hong Kong’s Lee Ho Ching, is once again the favourite for this year title.“All the 16 players are qualified through many tough tournaments in 2016, so everyone here will be strong. I will prepare my best for every match, as each match will be difficult. I am here to win, and want desperately to defend my title,” said during the draw on Wednesday.She however have the Japanese trio of Miu Hirano, Mima Ito and Hina Hayata, who are fresh from their historic feat of becoming the Women’s Junior World Team Champions earlier in the week, to contend with.Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) President Khalil Ahmed al Mohannadi said, "We are very happy to welcome the world to Doha. This is one of the most prestigious events of our sports and Doha is proud to add this to our repertoire of sport hosting. I believe the participants will all enjoy our hospitality as we enjoy the game of table tennis for this four days."The Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals is the most lucrative table tennis event on the globe, with only the top 16 men and women players from the 20 2016 ITTF World Tour events securing their place in Doha.
In addition to the singles competition, eight men’s and women’s doubles pairs and 8 men’s and women’s under 21 players have also be making their way to Doha to compete in the event.Aside from the actions on the courts, the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF Star Awards, where the season’s best players will receive awards, will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha on Thursday.