Record sixth title beckons for Liu Shiwen

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Liu Shiwen (China) will be looking to retain her crown at the Uncle Pop 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup.

Top international stars from around the world are expected to make their returns to the table tennis arena when China hosts the Women’s World Cup (8 – 10 November) and the Men’s World Cup (13 – 15 November).

The two tournaments will be the first major events to be scheduled after the global table tennis calendar was upended by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The World Cups will feature 20 female and 20 male athletes, including the reigning World Champion, qualified players from Africa, Europe and Pan America and players selected by world ranking from Asia and Oceania.

For each World Cup event, there will only be a maximum two players per national association to ensure an exciting spread of star talent from across the globe.

Five-time champion Liu Shiwen of China will spearhead the women’s competition. The 27-year-old comes into the tournament with an unmatched pedigree. She had also lifted the World Cup in Chengdu last year.

Among the players to have qualified via the continental cups, there are Egyptian Dina Meshref, who holds the record of eight Africa Cup titles; German’s Petrissa Solja, winner of back-to-back Europe Cup titles and Austrian Sofia Polcanova, Europe’s highest-ranked female player at world number.14.

Also in the fray are Puerto Rican Adriana Diaz, winner of back-to-back Pan America Cup titles; and American Lily Zhang , the 2019 ITTF Breakthrough Star and one of the standout players at last year’s Women’s World Cup in which she reached the semi-finals.

Since the Asia and Oceania Cups were unable to be held due to COVID-19, players have been selected according to world ranking with many familiar faces set to enter the action, including Mima Ito of Japan the world number two and still only 19 years of age.

China’s Zhu Yuling, runner-up at last year’s Women’s World Cup; Feng Tianwei, bronze medallist at last year’s event and Australian Lay Jian Fang, the highest-ranked player in Oceania have also made the list.

Additionally, Romanian Bernadette Szocs enters as the wild card, while Suthasini Sawettabut of Thailand qualifies as the original host player, as the event was moved from Bangkok to China.

Considered by many as the greatest table tennis player of all time, China’s Ma Long will be looking to add the Men’s World Cup to his burgeoning trophy cabinet. “The Dragon” qualifies off the back of his stunning third consecutive World Championships title, sealed last year in Budapest.

Ma is joined by teammate and world number one Fan Zhendong, the reigning champion as well as a number of other top Asian players who have qualified via their world ranking.

This includes Japan’s teenage sensation, the 16-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto and Taiwanese Lin Yun-Ju, the world number seven and just two years older than Harimoto at 18 years old.

Europe is providing plenty of strength, especially in the form of German pair, Timo Boll, who qualifies off the back of his 2019 Europe Cup victory, and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the former world number one entering as a wild card.

Brazilian veteran Hugo Calderano will be keen to make a big impact following his third straight success at the Pan America Cup. Egyptian Ahmed Saleh qualifies as this year’s Africa Cup champion, while Nigerian Quadri Aruna  enters as runner-up in the competition. Australian Heming Hu will be travelling to China as Oceania’s highest-ranked player.

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