by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The inclusion of the Under 21 Men’s Singles and Under 21 Women’s Singles events, first staged in the Grand Finals in Macao in 2008, has come and gone but the basic principle of 16 players in each of the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles, eight pairs in the Men’s Doubles and same in the Women’s Doubles competitions has remained the same.
Questions were asked at the time. Straight knock-out and no group was quite an innovation and was challenged in some quarters; now to the best of my knowledge it is accepted without query. Similarly, the method of seeding did raise questions, should the world ranking be the basis or the final positions on the Standings be the determining factor? The decision was the latter, again no change.
Likewise the fact there is no separation by association was queried; now recognised as part of the event’s unique fascination.
Accepted, the number tables, the intricacies of the schedule, the methods of presentation, the design of the equipment and the media dissemination may now be somewhat different but in an age when there has been most significant changes in the sport of table tennis, a veritable revolution, the Grand Finals have principally remained the same.
In 1996, when legends of the sport, China’s Kong Linghui and Deng Yaping won the respective Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles titles, we played best of five games each to 21 points, the service could be hidden by the free arm, the ball was made of celluloid and was 38 millimetres in diameter, whilst the practice of affixing the racket covering to blade by the use of so called “speed glue” was at its zenith.
Yet the proposals formulated for the ITTF World Tour and thus the Grand Finals at a meeting in 1995 in the Canadian city of Vancouver have stood the test of time and why?
May I suggest that in an age when I witness the most complicated systems in some areas of sport, the Grand Finals is simple. The event is played over a compact four days period of time and if you win you progress, lose you are out.
They do say the simple things in life are the best.