World Championships

Week of fierce fights and incredible challenges in Houston

Photo: Courtesy ITTF

The 2021 World Table Tennis Championships Finals commences tomorrow in the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, USA. The draw for the competition was held last night.

Only two European players will be free in the opening Round of 128 players In Men’s Singles – Mattias FALCK of Sweden, ranked at the position 10 at the World Rankings and one place below, Worlds no. 11 Timo BOLL of Germany. In Women’s Singles, for Europeans the fights commneces already tomorrow with the matches in in the first round.

For all players there is a long and hard way. Finalist from the World Championships in 2019, FALCK has Chinese Taipei’s LIN Yun-Ju, the no.4 seed in his part of the draw. They could meet in the quarters if previously FALCK potentionaly beat Nigeria’s Quadri ARUNA, the no.13 seed. In the same part is Germany’s Patrick FRANZISKA, the no.10 seed, who could play against LIN in the same round.

Four players from China are in the top half of the draw, it means just one in the lower section, ZHOU Qihao. He presents a most intriguing situation, in the second round Germany’s Timo BOLL, the no.8 seed awaits. Timo BOLL and ZHOU Qihao are listed in the same quarter of the draw as Korea Republic’s LEE Sangsu, the no.16 seed and Japan’s Tomokazu HARIMOTO, the no.2 seed.

Nothing easier will be in the Doubles. Outstanding in Budapest, in the Men’s doubles, seeking to repeat their silver medal success, the combination of Romania’s Ovidiu IONESCU and Spain’s Alvaro ROBLES, the no.4 seeds, appear in the same half of the draw as two Chinese partnerships. LIN Gaoyuan and LIANG Jingkun, the top seeds, who could well meet Portugal’s Tiago APOLONIA and João MONTEIRO in round two, bronze medallists in Budapest, appear in the same half of the draw, as does the combination of FAN Zhendong and WANG Chuqin, the no.9 seeds. They are potential third round adversaries for Ovidiu Ionescu and Alvaro Robles.

The background for the classifications, which do not always correctly reflect the balance of power in world of table tennis, is the world ranking list, which is not particularly meaningful due to the pandemic and which - together with current results in doubles - forms the basis for the rankings. Many nations only visited the few tournaments sporadically or not at all, shifts in the World rankings were a consequence, the consequences are obvious in the draw.

DTTB sports director Richard PRAUSE explains: “The world rankings have been shaken up a bit by Corona. Players who have toured many tournaments are ranked a bit higher. Other players, who are normally expected further up in the seeding, are behind due to a lack of tournament participation. In doubles, the current results were used as a basis. That's okay too, but it sometimes led to some surprising classifications. In singles and doubles, this means that there are or may be early encounters between stronger athletes than would otherwise have been the case at a World Championships. As a result, we are faced with some very challenging tasks very early on. But that doesn't just affect us, as the example of China in the men's singles shows. In a non-Corona time with significantly more competitions, the World rankings and thus the settings that make such constellations possible would probably have looked different."

All the European players in the Women’s Singles Event will start from Round one. Best seeded is Sofia POCANOVA of Austria at the position no. 13, followed by Petrisa SOLJA of Germany three positions below. In the fourth Round POLCANOVA could meet WANG Manyu, no. 4 seed whilst European champion SOLJA will head to cleash against Mima ITO of Japan at the same stage.

In Women’s Doubles CHEN Chien-An and CHUANG Chih-Yuan aiming to regain their title, whilst, SUN Yingsha and WANG Manyu, the no.11 seeds aim to retain the title won in Budapest. On their way to the top they could meet Germany’s SHAN Xiaona and Petrissa SOLJA, the no.6 seeds and reigning European champions in round three.