14 Mar 2021

The first ever official series of World Table Tennis (WTT) events, the Middle East Hub concluded yesterday with the successful staging of both WTT Contender and WTT Star Contender with Doha showcasing a new era in table tennis and zero COVID-19 cases.

The two historic events took place at the Lusail Sports Arena with WTT working closely with the Qatari authorities to ensure the new WTT style of events could begin during the pandemic, which makes hosting events extremely complicated.

ITTF CEO/WTT Director Steve Dainton said: “I am delighted that, despite the many challenges of a global pandemic, we are able to give our players, fans and supporters across the world the opportunity to enjoy live, competitive international table tennis at the elite level.  Our brand new events this year, starting with the Contender series here in Doha, are taking our sport to the next level, for competitor and viewer alike.

“Doha was selected as the venue for the WTT’s first new-look competitive tournament because the Qatari authorities’ enthusiasm to host it, together with the city’s 25 year track record of successfully hosting sporting and other international events.

“I would like to say a special thank you to the Qatari authorities, and in particular Mr Khalil Al-Mohanndi, the President of Qatar Table Tennis Association and WTT Director. Without his enthusiasm, pragmatic leadership and visionary foresight, we simply wouldn’t have been able to host this event.”

President of Qatar Table Tennis Association and WTT Director, Mr Khalil Al-Mohanndi said:

“Here in Doha we are very proud to be playing our part in making table tennis history. At a time of continuing challenge for us all, I am delighted that we have been able to bring together some of the best players in the world to compete at the highest level.

“This is the beginning of an exciting period of modernisation for our sport and today we have taken the first step towards taking table tennis to the next level for both players and spectators.”

Fans were treated to a whole new presentation of Table Tennis with the eight-sided court, centralised TV production, sensational event presentation and a brand new savvy social media strategy that brought fans closer to the event than ever before.

France’s Simon Gauzy was among the 125 professional players from 40 countries to have competed at WTT Middle East Hub and he was pleased with the new identity WTT has brought to revolutionise table tennis.

“It’s really cool with the black tables and blues lines. It’s amazing and something totally different from what we were used to seeing in the past. Obviously, it’s also very nice for viewers to see this kind of set-up,” said Gauzy.

Stringent COVID-19 management measures were in place to ensure the events remained safe for all involved. At the event and the pre-tournament qualifying, participants had to maintain social distancing, have PCR tests every six days and were required to wear masks at all times. These measures proved to be highly successful with zero COVID-19 cases recorded.

Japan dominated the WTT Star Contender singles events with Tomokazu Harimoto clinching the men’s singles title after defeating the surprise packet of the event Germany’s Ruwen Filus 4-2 (11-9, 11-9, 12-14, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8) and Mima Ito securing the women’s singles title after beating Singapore’s Feng Tianwei 4-1 (10-12, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6) to add to her WTT Contender title last week.

“I’m very pleased with how I’ve played over the last two weeks in Doha. I lost to Dimitrij Ovtcharov in semi-final of the WTT Contender Doha. He is a very good player and was a better player on that day. But I’m very happy I made a good comeback in the WTT Star Contender Doha and won the title,” said Harimoto.

Korea Republic stole the show in the doubles events with Lee Sangsu and Jeoung Youngsik prevailing over Spain’s Alvaro Robles and Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu 3-2 (2-11, 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3) to win the men’s doubles title while their female compatriots Jeon Jihee and Shin Yubin overcame Japan’s Miu Hirano and Kasumi Ishikawa and Korea Republic’s to take home the women’s doubles title.

Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching and Lin Yun-Ju won the mixed doubles after beating Jeon Jihee and Lee Sangsu of Korea Republic 3-1 (10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6).

Follow up on the historic first ever series of WTT events on worldtabletennis.com

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