In light of the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, World Table Tennis (WTT), the commercial arm of the sports, is organising its inaugural event calendar in the best possible way to overcome the challenges that continue to face the sports industry and the world at large.
The first half of the 2021 WTT calendar will adopt the pragmatic approach of grouping events in three separate “Hubs” to be staged in Middle East, China and Europe:
Hub 1: Middle East – 17 March – 3 April
Hub 2: China – 13 April – 16 May
Hub 3: Europe – 27 May – 20 June
The Hubs will showcase the new WTT event structure and the China Hub will feature the very first Grand Smash, the top tier in professional table tennis.
The WTT Champions Series will also see players battling it out for lucrative prize money and all-important points in their bid to reach the WTT Cup Finals, two separate end-of-year showpiece events contested by the top men’s and women’s players.
The Hubs in Middle East and Europe will focus on WTT Contender Series events, which provide the perfect setting for up-and-coming stars to test themselves against some of the world’s leading athletes.
The proposed Hub format will create the best possible environment for WTT events to be held, ensure better logistics for meeting COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and a manageable travel schedule for players, while the representation of three different regions reflects the globality of WTT.
Furthermore, the journey from continent to continent in structured time-blocks will help to tell the story of the WTT season, making it more compelling for the fans and a captive global audience to follow and engage with.
“Despite the difficulties caused by COVID-19, WTT is being proactive to ensure that international table tennis events are able to take place in 2021, acknowledging that this first calendar year will act as a stepping-stone towards a full event schedule, to be implemented in subsequent years.
“2021 is a landmark year for the sport and we remain committed to offering our fans, both old and new, the opportunity to watch world-class table tennis that is refreshed, re-energised and redefined,” said Stephen Duckitt, WTT Event Strategy Director.
Following the three Hubs in Middle East, China and Europe, the WTT calendar will take a break to accommodate the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games to be held between 23rd July and 8th August 2021. The break will provide the opportunity for players to train and prepare for a tilt at becoming Olympic Champions.
After the Olympic Games, WTT intends to return to a modified calendar of events that reflects its desired event calendar and discussions with host bid candidates are continuing. WTT will continue to be guided by government and medical advice around the COVID-19 pandemic before making further announcements.
EVENT TIERS EXPLAINED
Grand Smash – the four pillars of WTT. 10 days of main draw action: men’s singles (64 players), women’s singles (64 players), men’s doubles (24 pairs), women’s doubles (24 pairs), mixed doubles (16 pairs) plus singles qualifying played over 2 or 3 days.
WTT Cup Finals – WTT’s end-of-year showpiece events. 5 days of main draw action: separate events for men (16 singles players and 8 doubles pairs) and women (16 singles players and 8 doubles pairs).
WTT Champions – WTT’s premier events. 6 days of main draw singles action only: separate events for men (32 players) and women (32 players).
WTT Star Contender – 5 days of main draw: men’s singles (48 players), women’s singles (48 players), men’s doubles (16 pairs), women’s doubles (16 pairs), mixed doubles (16 pairs) plus singles qualifying played over 2 or 3 days.
WTT Contender – 4 days of main draw: men’s singles (32 players), women’s singles (32 players), men’s doubles (16 pairs), women’s doubles (16 pairs), mixed doubles (8 pairs) plus singles and doubles qualifying played over 2 or 3 days.