06 Jan 2019

A total of 10 international tournaments, such was the list in 1996, the first year of the ITTF World Tour; now as we approach the start of the 24th year, proceedings commencing in Hungary on Tuesday 15th January, times have changed, some things return, some remain just the same but everything is for the better.

Present in the inaugural year, Sweden once again appears on the calendar but more pertinently so does China and Japan; they are the countries that have never missed.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Every year since inception, Japan has staged an ITTF World Tour tournament; for China the record is even more impressive, the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour China Open will be no less than their 33rd such tournament. The reason they exceed the number of years is that from 2004 to 2009 and from 2011 to 2013 they staged two events each year.

Worthy facts but the most notable statistic is the sheer growth in the number of tournaments. In 2019, as in recent times, six platinum and six regular ITTF World Tour tournaments appear on the calendar but the significant factor is the increase in the ITTF Challenge Series events. In 2019 there are no less than 17 such tournaments on the schedule, of which six are named Challenge Plus.

Most notably, it is a major increase on 2018; last year nine Challenge tournaments graced the calendar.

The fact now that tournaments can stand alone, not be part of a Tour and attract large entries is most encouraging, perhaps the new format for world rankings has had an effect; significantly, in 1995 there was the widely held view that the Tour concept was needed in order to save open international tournaments. Now such events are stronger than ever.

Equally, going back further in time, return to the 1960s and mixed doubles was always included; now those days return in force. The event is included in all ITTF World Tour tournaments in favour of the under 21 men’s singles and under 21 women’s singles events. Thus all 12 ITTF World Tour tournaments in 2019 comprise: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

Meanwhile, in all Challenge series tournaments, under 21 men’s singles and under 21 women’s singles events appear on the schedule alongside men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles and women’s doubles. However, in Challenge Plus Series tournaments, mixed doubles is added to the agenda.

Also, in 2019, ball girls and ball boys will once again be prevalent; an innovation that reflects another change. Ball boys and ball girls were used at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. They were stationed in the four corners of the court; the idea was not repeated. It the view was that it made the court look crowded and the players preferred the slight pause between rallies.

Must have fitter and healthier players these days! Certainly there is a much healthier international tournament scene than ever before experienced; overall 29 in total when combining ITTF World Tour and Challenge Series.

Furthermore, you can almost double that number, there are 26 tournaments scheduled on the ITTF World Junior Circuit; add the ITTF World Tour, the ITTF Challenge Series; the sum is three more tournaments than weeks in the year!

World Tour China Japan