27 Feb 2020

Superstar names, landmark achievements and unforgettable moments… what better way to celebrate 25 years of the Qatar Open than a thorough A – Z ahead of the prestigious ITTF World Tour Platinum event, taking place between 3 – 8 March in Doha!

by James Francis

A – Aspire Dome

The 2020 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open will be the first ever held at Aspire Dome. The impressive 15,500 capacity stadium is the largest indoor multi-purpose dome based in Qatar and has previously been used to stage Junior and Cadet events and Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cups. Furthermore, it has been the venue for the Chinese national team training camp in recent weeks following the Coronavirus outbreak.

B – Boll

What would an A-Z look like without Timo Boll? We dread to think! The German legend makes the cut thanks to his epic 2009 victory in Doha, when he ousted one of China’s all-time greats, Ma Lin, in a gripping final that went the full seven-game distance.

C – Calderano

The moment that Hugo Calderano made the world sit up and notice: at the 2018 Qatar Open, the “Thrill from Brazil” reached the final after knocking out heavyweight names Timo Boll, Tomokazu Harimoto and Lin Gaoyuan. After eliminating Lin with a stylish straight games thumping, Calderano did not have quite enough against Fan Zhendong, but the boy from Rio had caught the eye and has continued to rise up the world ranking despite never improving on that silver medal finish on the ITTF World Tour. Could 2020 be a different story?

Hugo Calderano pictured at the 2018 Qatar Open (Photo: Hussein Sayed)

D – Doha

Doha has staged every single Qatar Open to date and therefore hosted more ITTF World Tour events than any other city. Fact! The cosmopolitan capital has proved to be a most successful host over the years, with players and officials alike appreciating the well-renowned efficiency, high-quality training and playing facilities, luxury accommodation and even the nearby tourist spots!

E – Exhibition Match

In 1994, at the very first Qatar Open, this happened!

F – Freitas & Gacina

Mixed nationality pairing Marcos Freitas (Portugal) and Andrej Gacina (Croatia) really hit it off in 2015 by winning the men’s doubles title in Doha. In actual fact, the partnership made in the Mediterranean had been a fruitful one for years, famously striking gold at the 2011 European Championships in Poland.

G – Guo Yue

The most successful women’s doubles player in Qatar Open history, China’s Guo Yue claimed the title on four occasions with three different partners: Niu Jianfeng (2005), Zhang Yining (2008, 2009) and Li Xiaoxia (2011).

H – Hand Switch

How could anyone forget this one?! The standout shot from last year’s Qatar Open was indeed this vintage hand switch beauty by Timo “Magic” Boll against Ma Long!

I – ITTF History

The history of the Qatar Open is a little complicated, so let’s clear things up for you: in 1994 the ball got rolling in Doha with its first ITTF Pro Tour event (as well as that incredible exhibition match!) and in 1997 the first ITTF World Tour event was held. In 2017, the Qatar Open attained Platinum status, owing to its prestige and reputation. Since 1994, the event has been held every year except for 2000 and 2004, thus making 2020 the celebratory 25th occasion.

J – Jörgen Persson

Given his undisputed status in the game, Swedish great and 1991 World champion, Jorgen Persson curiously never won the Qatar Open. However, as a coach he guided Mattias Falck to a memorable bronze medal finish at last year’s event after the Swede shocked Tomokazu Harimoto at the quarter-final stage before very nearly ousting Lin Gaoyuan in the penultimate round. Just a few weeks later, Falck went one better by famously reaching the World Championships final in Budapest. The partnership with Persson was paying dividends.

Jörgen Persson (pictured) coached Mattias Falck to a bronze medal finish last year in Doha (Photo: Ireneusz Kanabrodzki)

K – Khalil Al Mohannadi

ITTF Deputy President Khalil Al Mohannadi has been President of the Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) since 1995, just one year after the very first Qatar Open was held. During his presidency, table tennis in the nation has gone from strength to strength with outstanding facilities and player development programmes, not to mention the fact that the Qatar Open itself keeps growing year on year!

L – Liu Shiwen

Three times a women’s singles champion (2011, 2016, 2018) and three times a runner-up (2010, 2013, 2019), Liu Shiwen is rarely out of the spotlight in Doha. Having not won a singles title throughout the 2019 ITTF World Tour, can the reigning World and Women’s World Cup champion return to winning ways next week?

Liu Shiwen, the winner in Qatar in 2011 and 2018 (Photo: Rémy Gros)

M – Ma Long

2013, 2016, 2017, 2019. Who other than Ma Long to become the most successful men’s singles player in Qatar Open history?! This time last year “The Dragon” came roaring back from an eight-month absence through injury to reclaim his crown and deliver one of the more mysterious table tennis celebrations. What do you think he meant by this?!

N – Net!

Yes, this really did happen…! Once again, the 1994 exhibition match never failed to amaze!

O – Olympic Preparations

Less than five months before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, table tennis stars are gearing up for the biggest sports event on the planet and what better way to build form and confidence than by winning an ITTF World Tour Platinum event like the Qatar Open?

P – Primorac

Winning three titles in a row (1998, 1999, 2001), Zoran Primorac has rubber stamped his place in Qatar Open history, as the only player to achieve the feat. The Croatian legend and current chairman of the ITTF Athletes Commission first got his hands on gold by beating Swedish great Jan-Ove Waldner in the final and then he twice defeated Korea Republic’s Kim Taeksoo either side of the Millennium.

Zoran Primorac pictured here in 1999 won three times in succession in Doha (Photo: Tamasu Butterfly)

Q – Qatar

25 years of Qatar Open, it’s safe to say that the sport of table tennis is better off for it! Keep reading this A-Z to become a true Qatar Open expert!

R – Records

Yep, it’s Ma Long again! By winning the 2019 Qatar Open, “The Dragon” equalled Vladimir Samsonov’s record of 27 ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles in the process! Two months later, he would take the record outright with victory at the China Open.

Ma Long has certainly played his part in Qatar Open history (Photo: Rémy Gros)

S – Samara

In 2015, Romania’s Elizabeta Samara became the first non-Chinese player to win the Qatar Open women’s singles title since 2003, when Croatia’s Tamara Boros was champion. Interestingly, Samara’s success coincided with a real purple patch for European players in the competition with Germany’s Han Ying winning silver and another all-European men’s singles final taking place between Belarus’ Vladimir Samsonov and Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Read up on letter ‘V’ to find out what happened…!

Elizabeta Samara won in 2015 (Photo: Rémy Gros)

T – Try, try and try again!

The Qatar Open has seen some mammoth efforts from athletes across the world trying to win the elusive gold medal. No one signifies this better than China’s Wang Manyu. She was the women’s singles runner up in 2017, then again in 2018, eventually last year she won!

U – Unbelievable…

…Action! Take a look at these top 10 points from last year and start getting mentally prepared for this year’s event!

V – Vladi

We left you on a bit of a cliff-hanger on letter ‘S’ (!) but here you have your answer: Vladimir Samsonov took the men’s singles title in 2015, defeating Dimitrij Ovtcharov. That was Vladi’s second Qatar Open crown after he claimed the top prize first off in 2003: yet another sign of the Belarusian legend’s outstanding longevity in the game…

W – Waldner

Olympic Games gold medallist, World champion; in fact the owner of every major title on planet earth, considered by many as the greatest of all. In 1997, the first time the Qatar Open was included on the ITTF World Tour, he won the men’s singles title.

Jan-Ove Waldner, seen here in 1997, the year he won in Qatar (Photo: ITTF)

X – Xu Xin

Watch this space: if world no.1 Xu Xin secures men’s singles gold next week, he will draw level with Chinese team-mate Ma Long on four Qatar Open crowns. “The Cloudwalker” was on a roll at the start of the last decade in Doha, winning the 2011, 2012 and 2014 editions. Fresh off the back of his German Open victory, will Xu be celebrating the Qatar Open’s 25th anniversary party in style?

Y – Young Stars

The 2020 Qatar Open will see a host of exciting teenagers, who look keen to keep ruffling feathers. Japanese duo Tomokazu Harimoto (16) and Mima Ito (19) are fresh from wins in the respective men’s and women’s singles events at the Hungarian Open, while China’s Sun Yingsha (19) will be keen to kick on from an exceptional 2019 that saw her win three singles titles on the ITTF World Tour. Can Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju (18) also continue to stun the game’s established names? Not long until we start getting some answers in Qatar!

Fresh from her title victory in Budapest, how far can Mima Ito go in Doha? (Photo: Richard Kalocsai)

Z – Zhang Yining

The most successful ever women’s player in Qatar Open history, Zhang Yining picked up four singles titles in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009. In those latter three years, the Chinese legend also scooped the women’s doubles prizes. To this day, she remains the most decorated women’s player in ITTF World Tour history.

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