by Simon Daish
Conducted at the Grange Tower Hotel a day prior to the start of the event, 12 teams in both the Men’s Team and Women’s Team events were divided into four equal groups in the draw for the opening stage with day one featuring two rounds of group stage encounters in both categories.
England and Japan will meet in a repeat of the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships Men’s Team semi-finals after both sides were placed in Group B of the Men’s Team competition in London. Despite losing out on that occasion, Liam Pitchford and his England teammates secured a bronze medal in Kuala Lumpur while Japan settled for silver.
“It’s massive to play in front of a home crowd, London 2012 was special. In Kuala Lumpur we competed well and surprised everyone to win a bronze medal. Of course here it will be tough, we play Japan, they have a strong young team, Tomozaku Harimoto especially! Last night I played in the French League, it’s the same situation for many European players. It’s hectic but I’m ready.” Liam Pitchford [England]
The tie will take place in the evening session of play with Japan facing Egypt in the opening Group B fixture earlier in the day.
However, surely the standout draw comes in Group A as defending champions China meet France and Sweden on day one of the proceedings.
Team China begins its group stage campaign against France, who suffered a late injury blow with the withdrawal of star player Simon Gauzy; seventh seeds Sweden provide the opposition in the second group fixture.
“I’m happy to be back in England; I just try my best and hope to do well. We play Sweden and France in the group stage, both are strong teams. Playing in this tournament which is over a shorter period of time than the Olympic Games and World Championships is quite similar, perhaps less stressful.” Ma Long [China)
Group C sees Germany go head-to-head with Australia in the afternoon session of play before Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Co. take on no.5 seeds Korea Republic in a mouth-watering encounter. Hong Kong, Brazil and the United States of America will contest Group D.
China is also the top seeded nation in the Women’s Team tournament and will be happy with how the draw panned out.
The likes of Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling will do battle with DPR Korea in the morning session and will close out their day’s work against Brazil.
Over in Group A, Japan – another major contender for the title – has been handed opening fixtures with the United States of America and African champions Egypt.
“For the women we have our best team here, we are third in the group but I think we have a very good chance against Egypt and we can make the main draw.” Stefan Feth [USA Coach]
Hong Kong and Singapore have been drawn into Group C alongside the host nation England while Group D sees Chinese Taipei take on Romania and Australia, the champions of Europe and Oceania respectively.
“Certainly excited to play in my home city, maybe we can cause an upset, who knows. We have a tough group but it’s a great opportunity. We have prepared, we had a training camp in Nottingham” Tin-Tin Ho [England]
“It must be seven or eight years since Romania played in the World Team Cup, it’s great to be here; really happy to be in London. European champions, we have a really good team spirit; always China are favourites. I’m pleased with the draw.” Daniela Monteiro Dodean [Romania]
All matches in London will be played under the new Olympic Test Playing System which sees each tie start with doubles action prior to a maximum of four singles fixtures. No player may play in more than two fixtures per team match.