Diane the Koala Welcomes World's Best Players to the Australian OpenPhoto: ITTF
Seamaster 2017 World Tour Platinum Australian Open
The world's top table tennis players had a special greeting by Diane the Koala at the press conference prior to the Seamaster 2017 World Tour Platinum Australian Open which starts tomorrow 4 July in the sunny Gold Coast!
Once the welcome party concluded, the players got back their focus for the US$400,000 event, and secure points to qualify for the million dollar World Tour Grand Finals later in the year.
Due to the Chinese Men's team withdrawing event, Rio 2016 bronze medalist Jun MIZUTANI (JPN) is the number one seed and favorite to lift the boomerang trophy on Friday. During the press conference, the world number six and the defending Australian Open Champion stated: "I am very happy to be here in Australia, it is a beautiful country. I am here to defend my title, and I hope I play my best and can win my second Australian Open."
MIZUTANI's biggest competition will come from Europe, with Vladimir SAMSONOV (BLR) looking to win his 27th World Tour title, and his first title in Oceania, which is the only continent eluding the 41-year-old table tennis legend.
Marcos FREITAS (POR), CHUANG Chih-Yuan (TPE) and Simon GAUZY (FRA) will be the other trio gunning for the large pay check here in Australia.
World number three, and World Champion runner-up ZHU Yuling (CHN) tops the women's seeding ahead of her team mate and world number five CHEN Meng (CHN). Speaking next to the Koala, ZHU stated: "The Australian Open is a great opportunity for me to win another title. I have been playing well and I hope this continues and I can list the trophy here in this beautiful country."
It won't be so easy for the Chinese players as they have to contend with Asian Champion and one of the form players in the world 14-year-old Miu HIRANO (JPN) and world number four FENG Tianwei (SGP).
Qualification for the main draw of 32 men and 32 women concludes today, with the world's best players starting tomorrow.
The 2017 Australian Open is the fourth platinum event of the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour which features 12 events across the world in 2017 plus a World Tour Grand Finals, which only the top 16 male and female players from the 12 World Tour events qualify for.
The events are split into two tiers, Regular and Platinum. The six ITTF World Tour Platinum events will have higher prize money and be of a higher level organisation, which will ensure the attendance of the world's best players, resulting in more international exposure for the hosts.