World Championships team mates turn rivals at 2016 Kuwait OpenPhoto: Courtesy ITTF
Champions and team mates at the recently concluded Perfect World Team Table Tennis Championships, the Chinese team now stands at the opposite ends of the table to fight for title at the 2016 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open from 16-20 March 2016.
World number one MA Long (CHN) and LIU Shiwen (CHN) will be heading the seeding, and looking to claim an unprecedented third Kuwait Open title to create history. The duo will have to overcome challenges from both international competitors as well as compatriots who stood with them to claim the World Team Championships title in Malaysia earlier this month.
MA Long who had an impressive year in 2015 winning all the major World titles on offer, will have to face World numbers two to four, FAN Zhendong, XU Xin and ZHANG Jike, in attempt to defend the crown he earned in the same city last year.
Germany's Dimitrij OVTCHAROV and Chinese Taipei's CHUANG Chih-Yuan, both whom missed the World Championships due to injuries, will make their comeback here and lead the main challenges to MA and his team mates on their quest for gold in Kuwait.
The Chinese "Big Four", LIU Shiwen, DING Ning, ZHU Yuling and LI Xiaoxia, will all be present as well to contest for their internal positioning in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Japanese trio of Ai FUKUHARA, Kasumi ISHIKAWA and Mima ITO who won silver at the World Team Championships will have to face off the Chinese team on duty in Kuwait to aim for the crown.
Singapore's FENG Tianwei, having a bad year at the 2015 ITTF World Tour, will hope to restore her form to claim a title for herself. Considered the closest opponent to the Chinese dominance, FENG defeated LIU at the 2015 Asian Cup and during the Asian Championships.
The star-studded Kuwait Open is the third of the 20 events on the 2016 ITTF World Tour and the second Super Series event of the year. The ITTF World Tour is categorized into three tiers: Super (six events) Major series (six events) and Challenge (eight events). The higher the tier, the higher the prize money, better playing conditions and tougher competition for the title.
All the players playing ITTF World Tour events are fighting for not only for prize money and world ranking points, but also World Tour ranking points to qualify for the lucrative year-ending World Tour Grand Final, taking place on 15-18 December 2016 in a location to be announced.
The 2016 ITTF World Tour is set to be the most extensively followed tour in history, with more events shown live throughout the world on television, and all the events being shown live on ITTF's live streaming platform, ITTF.com/itTV.
In addition to the men's and women's singles event in Kuwait, the worldâ's best players will also be competing in men's and women's doubles and the stars of the future will be lining up in the men's and women's under 21 events.
The qualifications for the ITTF World Tour World Tour Kuwait Open starts today, 16 March 2016, with the main draw starting on 18 March and the finals matches on 20 March 2016.