25 Jul 2019

It’s been a wonderful season on the international table tennis circuit with dramatic moments unfolding from all corners of the world.

One of the stages responsible for so much excitement is that of the newly remodelled ITTF Challenge Series. With this week’s 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Pyongyang Open signalling the start of the second half of this season’s ITTF Challenge Series, we take a look back at how the story has played out so far:

by Simon Daish

Welcome ITTF Challenge Plus

This year has seen a big new introduction to the ITTF Challenge Series format with the arrival of ITTF Challenge Plus events.

With the ITTF Challenge Series being split into two tiers in 2019, six ITTF Challenge Plus events were greenlit offering more exposure to players looking to make an impact on the global scene, valuable world ranking points and increased prize money.

So far two ITTF Challenge Plus events have been completed – at the 2019 Portugal Open in Lisbon it was China’s Liang Jingkun and Japan’s Hina Hayata who emerged as men’s singles and women’s singles champions respectively. Hayata was just as imperious one month later, earning another gold medal finish at the 2019 Oman Open in Muscat while the men’s singles draw saw up-and-coming Chinese Taipei star Lin Yun-Ju take home his first singles title on the international stage.

Following his success in Muscat, Lin has gone on to establish himself as one of this year’s standout names – read more about his amazing journey here.

History made and the busy month of May

At the 2019 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open in March there was a proud moment for Danish table tennis as Zhai Yujia became the first player from Denmark to win an international singles title in 15 years!

However, it was the month of May that stood out on the ITTF Challenge Series calendar with four exciting events taking place across two continents.

England’s Paul Drinkhall returned to title winning ways for the first time in five years with a successful outing in Serbia, one week later in Slovenia there was an incredible story surrounding Croatia’s Wei Shihao who experienced a wonderful campaign, starting out in qualification before going on to win his first men’s singles crown.

There were also first-time champions in Croatia and Thailand with Sweden’s Anton Källberg, Japan’s Miyyu Kihara and Ruwen Filus adding their names to the history books.

Miyuu Kihara took home her first singles gold in Zagreb (Photo: Robert Valai)
What’s coming next?

Seven stops have been completed on this year’s ITTF Challenge Series calendar, but there’s still plenty more action to come starting with this week’s 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Pyongyang Open.

In a couple of weeks’ time Lagos welcomes the world to the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open with Asuncion, Paraguay and Markham, Canada playing host to the two remaining upper tier events of 2019 in September and December respectively.

Four ITTF Challenge Series events are still on the horizon: first up the action heads to Wladyslawowo for the 2019 ITTF Challenge Polish Open from 18-20 October with the 2019 ITTF Challenge Belarus Open in Minsk and 2019 ITTF Challenge Morocco Open in Agadir running in conjunction with one another one week later. It’s then Batam’s turn to take to the spotlight for the 2019 ITTF Challenge Indonesia Open in mid-November.

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Challenge Series Lin Yun -Ju Miyuu Kihara Zhai Yujia