by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The goal for most is to progress one round further than ever before but the precious podium finish, at what in recent years has been termed an ITTF World Tour Major or Super Series tournament, is out of reach.
It is for the many players who earn their living representing clubs in the various national leagues, particularly in Asia and Europe, that the Challenge tournament provides an opportunity to gain a place on the podium.
Now in 2017, eleven ITTF Challenge tournaments appear on the calendar but unlike previous years they are not part of the ITTF World Tour which comprises twelve events.
History shows that the very best were attracted to the ITTF World Tour Super Series or Major tournaments; in the majority it was those players that gained success at the recent Seamaster 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Winning an open international tournament is always a special achievement but for the stars that have Olympic Games or World Championships gold medals in their possession, it is not the height of their careers.
However for the vast majority standing on the top step of the podium at an open international championship is the ultimate; in that respect, the Challenge Series opens a door.
It provides an opportunity for the journeyman professional. For young players aspiring to climb to greater heights, it acts as a measure of progress. Additionally it is the opportunity for national associations to host an international event for players in their region of the world. It is a tool for development.
A Challenge Series tournament may not be the pinnacle in the sport of table tennis but it plays a significant role. It is a motivating force, a motivating force for the established player, for the rising star and for the national association.
The Challenge Series commences with the 2017 Belarus Open to be held from Wednesday 15th to Sunday 19th March.