Amidst the glitz and glamour of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Incheon, Korea, the scene was set perfectly for the sport of Table Tennis to recognise and celebrate some of the greatest feats of the past year at the 2018 ITTF Star Awards.
With awards presented in the Female & Male Star, Female & Male Para Star, Breakthrough Star, Star Coach and Star Point categories, it was a night to remember once again at what has become a simply ‘can’t miss’ event on Table Tennis’ annual calendar.
DING NING DOES IT AGAIN!
For an incredible fourth time in the last five years, Ding Ning is the Female Table Tennis Star, capping off yet another stellar 12 months.
Helping China to gold medal finishes at the Team World Cup and World Team Championships, the 28-year-old also excelled individually with title-winning campaigns at the World Tour Bulgaria Open and Women’s World Cup.
There’s no escaping Ding Ning’s special association with the ITTF Star Awards, and she was understandably delighted with her latest accolade:
“It has been a challenge to win this award. I’ve had to make changes to become stronger, and winning this award again gives me more strength. Thanks to all the people, who support me.”
Ding Ning, 2018 Female Table Tennis Star
FAN ZHENDONG: FANTASTIC YEAR GETS EVEN BETTER!
Three Men’s Singles titles on the 2018 ITTF World Tour, the Liebherr 2018 Men’s World Cup, and the World no.1 spot since April 2018.
As far as the Men’s game is concerned, 2018 has belonged to Fan Zhendong and the 21-year-old talent was understandably brimming with joy at his first ever Male Table Tennis Star award.
“I’m very glad to be winning this prize for the first time. I’d like to thank everyone: my team and my fans. I’ll keep working hard over the next year.”
Fan Zhendong, 2018 Male Table Tennis Star
BATRA THE BREAKTHROUGH STAR
A breakthrough year for Manika Batra has culminated in the 23-year-old Indian talent winning the 2018 Breakthrough Star award tonight in Incheon.
Batra enjoyed a sensational outing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, earning India its first-ever gold medal in the Women’s Singles category, and she went on to leave the Gold Coast with three further medals to her name from the Women’s Team, Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles events.
Batra becomes the first Indian athlete to be honoured at the ITTF Star Awards and she is also the first player from outside of Japan to be named the Breakthrough Star.
“I’m so honoured and happy to be here and nominated for this award. 2018 has been the best year of my career and of my life. Thank you to the ITTF and everyone who supported me along the way!”
Manika Batra, 2018 Breakthrough Star
MORALES & VAN ZON COLLECT PARA PRIZES
In October 2018, Jordi Morales shocked spectators across the globe, going from unseeded competitor to Class 7 Men’s Singles champion at the 2018 ITTF Para World Championships.
Having also finished as Class 7 runner-up on home soil at the 2018 Spanish Para Open, Morales completed a memorable 12 months with tonight’s Male Para Table Tennis Star Award.
Completing 35 months as World no. 1, Kelly van Zon’s extraordinary year saw her add the 2018 Female Para Table Tennis Star award to her bulging trophy collection.
The Dutch star secured title victories at this year’s Slovenia Para Open, Spanish Para Open and Lignano Para Master Open as well as her Women’s Singles Class 7 gold medal at the 2018 ITTF Para World Championships – all achievements which make her thoroughly deserving of tonight’s award.
XU XIN MAKES HIS POINT!
Chinese star Xu Xin has collected the first Star Award of his career tonight in Incheon, after his breath-taking rally against Stefan Fegerl was selected as the Star Point of 2018.
Leading Fegerl at the quarter-finals stage of the Liebherr 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships, Xu Xin showed why he is one of the best in the business, showing excellent pace and agility on the table, before pulling off an unstoppable around-the-net winner to leave his Austrian opponent, and all spectators watching on, stunned.
COSTANTINI NAMED STAR COACH
Head coach of the Indian national team, Massimo Costantini has received the Star Coach award after leading the country to record-breaking performances at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games.
India collected an astonishing eight medals on the Gold Coast including three Golds across the Women’s and Men’s Team and Women’s Singles events. The country picked up two further medals at the 2018 Asian Games, collecting Bronze in the Men’s Team and Mixed Doubles categories in Jakarta.
MIMA ITO JOINS THE PARTY!
For the first time, the ITTF added an MVP Award for both Male and Female players at the World Table Tennis Championships.
While Fan Zhendong – a gold medallist with China – won in the Men’s category, there would also be an award for rising Japanese star, Mima Ito, voted the Women’s MVP of the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships, where the 18-year-old (17 at the time) helped her country to Silver.
The burgeoning talent, who also won two ITTF World Tour titles in Japan and Sweden this year, is one of the players to watch out for now in Incheon as fourth seed at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals between 13-16 December.
THE FUN HAS JUST BEGUN!
The 2018 ITTF Star Awards, as ever, form the perfect prelude to the annual ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.