Nitto ATP Finals 2021 Presented In Turin

The Nitto ATP Finals, the prestigious season finale of the ATP Tour set to be staged in Turin from 2021-2025, was today presented at a stakeholder engagement event in the Piedmont capital, hosted by Intesa Sanpaolo.

The event, broadcast live with tournament partners, key regional and national government representatives and media in attendance, showcased the long-term vision and positioning of the Nitto ATP Finals as it moves to its new home in Turin, following 12 successful years in London.

Presentations by Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman, Angelo Binaghi, President of the Italian Tennis Federation, and Chiara Appendino, Mayor of Turin, alongside other key stakeholders, explored Turin’s successful bid to host the tournament — which saw the city triumph among 40 applicants — and the city’s ambitions to build on the legacy and growth of the ATP’s showpiece event, whilst promoting the region.

All roads on the ATP Tour this season lead to Turin and the FedEx ATP Race To Turin has officially begun, with only the best eight ATP singles players and doubles teams set to qualify. With players travelling to Australia to begin their 2021 campaigns, Daniil Medvedev, the Nitto ATP Finals defending champion, and Matteo Berrettini, Italian No. 1, sent their support via video message.

In addition to providing an overview of broadcast, marketing, ticketing and corporate hospitality operations, organisers thanked the tournament’s portfolio of globally renowned commercial and media partners for their support, including Nitto, who recently extended their commitment as Title Partner of the Nitto ATP Finals until 2025.

Gaudenzi said: “The Nitto ATP Finals has been an incredible story of growth and innovation, taking place in iconic cities around the world over the past 50 years. Now, we look forward to raising the bar together in Turin, an impressive city with the ambition and vision to build on that legacy and create something inspirational for our fans. We would like to thank all event partners for their invaluable commitment to the Nitto ATP Finals, and also to our players, who will be instrumental in writing future chapters of our most special event.”

Binaghi said: “Our management team has become accustomed to setting ourselves ambitious goals, as highlighted by the success and growth of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome over the past 20 years. Now, we have climbed Everest. The Nitto ATP Finals is the most important indoor tennis tournament in the world. Throughout the bidding process we were supported by the Government, the Region, the Municipality and the largest financial institution in our country and together, we have reached the top.”

Appendino said: “Thanks to a great team effort, we are here today, speaking about Turin as the centre of the tennis world. Turin won the bid against some of the best cities in the world, and now we look forward with confidence to delivering an outstanding event over the next five years. We are working together to create an event that engages city of Turin all year round, with great attention paid to each local territory.”

The 2021 Nitto ATP Finals will be held from 14-21 November. Tickets are currently available at and via Ticketone.

WTT Contender Series – everything you need to know!


The WTT Contender Series, with its distinctive black and blue branding, features two event tiers – WTT Star Contender and WTT Contender – that are set to deliver world-class competition. Players will battle it out for ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking points, as up-and-coming stars of the sport look to rise up the ladder. Matches will be played in more traditional table tennis settings.WTT Contender Series events will be the heartbeat of the WTT Series and provide a critical pathway for players to progress through the rankings and the new structure into WTT Champions and Grand Smash events.

WTT Star Contender events will take place over six days and WTT Contender events will deliver four days of action, with each event featuring men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles competitions.

WTT intends to have up to six Star Contender and up to 14 Contender events as part of the WTT Contender Series each calendar year, with fans getting their first look at the WTT Contender Series in the upcoming Middle East Hub in Doha, Qatar.

Event Size

WTT Star Contender events will be comprised of a singles main draw of 48 players per gender, 16-pair doubles per gender and 8-pair mixed doubles.

WTT Contender events will feature a singles main draw of 32 players per gender, 16-pair doubles per gender and 8-pair mixed doubles.

Each WTT Star Contender event organiser will have the opportunity to determine their singles qualifying draw size from three pre-determined draw sizes: 32, 48 or 64, while doubles qualifying is fixed at 16-pairs.

Each WTT Contender event organiser will have the opportunity to determine their qualifying draw size from 48, 64 or 96 player options, while doubles qualifying is fixed at 16 or 32 pairs respectively.

Top 20 Play Down Restriction

The Top 20 Play Down Restriction (PDR) is a new rule introduced for 2021 and designed to ensure that the players ranked 21 and lower have the opportunity to challenge their peers for progression through the ITTF Table Tennis World Rankings.

WTT Star Contender events will be limited to a maximum of four Top 20 players per event, while WTT Contender events will be restricted to a maximum of two Top 20 players per event.

WTT events will also be permitted to provide one of its allocated event wildcards to an additional Top 20 player, giving fans the opportunity to see their favourite Top 20 players competing at WTT events and being challenged by the contenders.

For the upcoming Middle East Hub, WTT has elected to increase the Top 20 Play Down Restriction to eight Top 20 players for WTT Star Contender Doha and four Top 20 for WTT Contender Doha.

Top 20 Play Down Restriction Regulations

Each WTT Star Contender event will be permitted a maximum of four players from the Top 20 at the time of the entry deadline. These players will be accepted into an event based on the following criteria:

  1. Top 20 players from the host country of the event will be accepted first.
  2. Top 20 players who were ineligible to play a Champions or Grand Smash event in the six weeks prior to the event entry deadline due to National Entry Restrictions.
  3. Top 20 players in order of ranking.

National Entry Restriction

Each WTT event will implement a National Entry Restriction (NER) designed to ensure that as many players from as many national associations are provided with the opportunity to participate in events and earn rankings points and prize money. This also provides fans with the opportunity to see more players from around the world competing in WTT events.

For WTT Star Contender events, the National Entry Restrictions are as follows:

Singles:           A maximum of 6 singles players permitted across the main draw and the qualifying draw.
Doubles:          A maximum of 8 players permitted across the main draw and the qualifying draw with a maximum of 3 all-national association pairs.
Mixed:             A maximum of 4 players permitted in any national association combination.

For WTT Contender events, the National Entry Restrictions are as follows:

Singles:           A maximum of 4 singles players permitted across the main draw and the qualifying draw.
Doubles:          A maximum of 8 players permitted across the main draw and the qualifying draw with a maximum of 3 all-national association pairs.
Mixed:             A maximum of 4 players permitted in any national association combination.

Host wildcards and Top 20 players do not count towards the National Entry Restriction.

WTT Event Structural Changes Introduced

WTT has made structural changes to the way that WTT events will be implemented. These will reinvigorate competitions by making them fairer, more exciting, more competitive and to give fans the opportunity to see more of their favourite players in action in the main draw.

A summary of the key changes are below:

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, WTT is constantly evaluating the global situation and may need to make adjustments where necessary.

Click here for more information about WTT Events.

Press Releases World Table Tennis

Fan Zhendong & Chen Meng headline first release of new ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking.

The transition from the ITTF World Rankings to the ITTF Table Tennis World Rankings commences with players retaining 80% of their December 2020 ITTF World Ranking points. These points will be progressively reduced by a further 10% every 7 weeks up to week 49, which means there is no change to the current top 5 players in the world.

ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking Top 5:


  1. Fan Zhendong (CHN)
  2. Xu Xin (CHN)
  3. Ma Long (CHN)
  4. Lin Gaoyuan (CHN)
  5. Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)


  1. Chen Meng (CHN)
  2. Sun Yinghsa (CHN)
  3. Mima Ito (JPN)
  4. Wang Manyu (CHN)
  5. Ding Ning (CHN)


With the launch of WTT in 2021, the new rankings structure incorporates the Grand Smash, WTT Cup Finals, WTT Champions and WTT Contender Series events for the very first time, with the winner of Grand Smash events collecting 2000 ranking points and placing it at the same level as the WTTC and Olympics.

WTT Cup Finals winners will earn 1500 points, while 1000 points are on offer for WTT Champions events. The Contender Series splits into two categories, WTT Star Contender where players will compete for 600 ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking points while 400 points will be available at WTT Contender events.

The allocation of points by round also changes under the new structure, with players rewarded for their performance by round in a proportional, merit-based way based on the new event structure, including qualifying players being able to add any points earned in qualifying rounds their main draw ranking points.

The new ranking structure will create a fairer, progressive and more dynamic system that will contribute to greater fluctuation for players, while making it clearer for fans, media broadcasters and sponsors to understand where each event fits and allow WTT to tell the story of each season.

In a major change to the publications of the rankings, the ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking will now be published weekly on a Tuesday, that will create more variation in player entry lists and field compositions and lead to greater rankings fluctuations for players and engaging fans by creating more excitement through the rankings.

Performance at the WTT Youth Series will once again be incorporated in the new ranking structure with ranking points offered for those participating in the U/19 age category events and providing a platform that will help create a continuous journey through the tiers of the sport to become World Number 1.

The full Week 1 ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking can be found here

The new ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking Regulation can be found here

Doha to kick off 2021 events with WTT Middle East Hub


The Middle East Hub will feature two tiers of the new WTT event structure. A WTT Contender event will get the 2021 calendar under way before players move to the first WTT Star Contender event the following week, providing the perfect setting for some of the world’s leading stars to be challenged by the best up-and-coming athletes in table tennis.

The cancellation of the postponed 2020 World Table Tennis Championships that were to be held in Busan, has also provided WTT with the opportunity to move the Middle East Hub forward from its previously announced dates, granting players a chance to compete at WTT events earlier than originally planned. The confirmed dates of the individual events are:

WTT Contender – Wednesday 3 March – Saturday 6 March 2021

WTT Star Contender – Monday 8 March – Saturday 13 March 2021

The proposed Hub format will create the best possible environment for WTT Series events to be held, ensuring better logistics for meeting COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and a manageable travel schedule for players.  This format has been created based on both ITTF and WTT’s recent successes of player and staff health and welfare at #RESTART and WTT Macao.


Qatar enjoys a significant and longstanding association with table tennis, with the President of the Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) and ITTF Deputy President, Khalil Al-Mohannadi spearheading the nation’s contributions to the sport.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open, one of the most prestigious events on the ITTF calendar, consistently attracting the world’s best players and offering among the highest prize money on the tour.

Qatar will continue to play a key role in the future of the sport, as the nation prepares to host the first-ever WTT Hub after committing to payment of the full WTT hosting fee and ensuring the events will be delivered in line with ITTF/WTT Covid-19 Protocols.

“We are honoured to be hosting the first-ever WTT events in Qatar. We have made many special table tennis memories over the years and we cannot wait to kick off the WTT era on our shores. This confirms Doha as a truly global sports hub and demonstrates the QTTA’s commitment to establishing WTT.” – Khalil Al-Mohannadi, QTTA President and ITTF Deputy President

“Congratulations to Doha upon becoming host of the WTT Middle East Hub. As one of the most established host cities on the international table tennis circuit, Doha is certain to bring the first WTT events of the year to life.” – Liu Guoliang, WTT Council Chair and CTTA President


The new table tennis era also heralds a landmark moment for the sport with all event prize money funded and paid to players exclusively by WTT.

To launch the WTT era, the WTT Board has approved the prize money levels for the Middle East Hub, with these two events offering a combined prize pool of USD 600K.

“We have made no secret about our desire to take table tennis to the next level through WTT. It is exciting that Doha is set to continue delivering world-class WTT events. We realise it will be another impacted year in 2021 with a limited number of events, however the additional prize money for Doha shows we will deliver on our promise and proves how we at the ITTF and WTT are motivated to grow prize money for our most important stakeholder in our sport – the athletes.” – Steve Dainton, WTT Director and ITTF CEO

For more information, please contact [email protected].

Press Releases World Table Tennis

Grand Smashes to take pride of place in new Table Tennis World Rankings

In a historic moment for World Table Tennis, Grand Smash events will sit at the top of the new Table Tennis World Rankings after the ITTF Executive Committee approved a new rankings structure for table tennis in 2021.

The new Table Tennis World Rankings will play a crucial role in bringing WTT events to life while acknowledging the tradition and importance of ITTF events.

Grand Smashes will join the ITTF World Championships and the Olympic Games as the three events at the top of the rankings pyramid and will each award 2000 points for the winners.

With up to four Grand Smashes planned each year, performance at these events will become the most critical in determining a player’s Table Tennis World Ranking.

“The Grand Smashes are the cornerstone of what we promised we would deliver for table tennis. This is a momentous occasion for WTT and the sport, as the ratification of the new Table Tennis World Rankings lays the foundation for these events to become the future of the sport for our elite athletes and entertain our fans for decades to come.” – Liu Guoliang, WTT Council Chair

“Grand Smashes as our marquee events will unlock the potential of table tennis and help further grow the industry of the sport. It will have a tremendous impact on the overall development of table tennis worldwide, ultimately bringing benefit to all stakeholders, not just our players and fans, but to our member associations as well.” – Steve Dainton, WTT Director and ITTF CEO

Grand Smashes will debut in 2021 and grow into the pinnacle of Table Tennis. Since the announcement of our Grand Smash initiative, marquee cities around the world have shown their interest in securing the long-term hosting contracts. Announcements of the inaugural two Grand Smash cities for 2021 will be made shortly.


The new ranking structure has been established to create a fairer, progressive and more dynamic system that will contribute to greater fluctuation for players, while making it clearer for fans, media broadcasters and sponsors to understand where each event fits and allow WTT to tell the story of each season.

The full Table Tennis World Ranking points for event champions is as follows:


The structure also re-establishes the pathway from Youth to Senior with Table Tennis World rankings points offered for players participating in the U/19 age category of the WTT Youth Series and ensuring that the WTT journey for players is clearly mapped out from day one of their playing career.

Separate WTT Youth Series rankings will be announced in early 2021.


The proposal also introduces a number of new rankings initiatives to reinforce the ITTF and WTT’s desire to present a more player and fan friendly structure.

These include:

  • Rankings used to determine automatic entry for players into events at the time of the entry deadline
  • Event seeding to be determined by the ranking at the time of the respective draw
  • Rankings published weekly, every Tuesday, instead of monthly
  • Players to receive rankings points based on round performance
  • Players to receive rankings points for both qualifying and main draw when a player advances from qualifying
  • Ranking points to now expire after 12 months
  • Only the best continental/international event to be included in best of eight count
  • A rankings transition mechanism commencing on 1 January 2021 to transition rankings into the new structure
  • A separate Olympic Ranking list where points earned at WTT events are converted based on the previous ITTF World Rankings

The full 2021 rankings structure, points allocations and final regulations will be published on the ITTF website commencing 29 December 2020.

For more information, please email [email protected].

ITTF reflects on highs and lows of the year. 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships cancelled amidst pandemic.


Despite it being the most difficult year in decades, the ITTF will finish on a high with the success of the #RESTART series in China and a report from the Vice President of Finance, Petra Sörling, and CFO, Michael Brown, revealed that, due to the end-of-year events as well as the diligent and prudent actions taken throughout the entire year, the ITTF can still end 2020 without a financial loss.

It was also stated by the ITTF CEO, Steve Dainton, that the final flourish to the year in the form of the #RESTART series and also the European Champions League matches being successfully held by the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU) means that after a really tough 2020, there is now finally hope and belief that 2021 can be a success for table tennis, since we now know how to make events a reality, even during a pandemic period.


On a more sombre note, with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Korea Republic in recent days, the ITTF Executive Committee together with representatives from the continents decided to cancel the 2020 ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships. This came after a report from the President of the Korea Table Tennis Association (KTTA) Ryu Seung-min, who had been informed by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency that it would not allow major international sporting events in the next few months. It was therefore unanimously agreed to make the extremely difficult and heartbreaking decision to cancel the World Championships for the first time since World War II.

Originally scheduled to take place in March 2020 in Busan, Korea Republic, the World Team Championships was already postponed three times in light of the pandemic. It had been hoped that the event would be staged in February 2021, however due to the worsening situation in Korea Republic and with the pandemic still problematic in many regions of the world, today’s difficult decision was reached. With a 2021 calendar that now includes the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it was not feasible to postpone for a fourth time. It was also noted that the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships will be held after the Olympics and a process put in place to finalise the details of that event to be announced in January. The Local Organising Committee (LOC) in Busan asked the ITTF to consider them for the event or another major World Title event in 2021.


The Executive Committee approved the 2021 World Ranking, as proposed by the ITTF World Ranking Working Group. The ranking document will be made public later this week together with an event schedule for the first part of 2021 leading up to the Olympic Games. The new World Ranking will see the WTT Grand Smash events have equal World Ranking points to the Olympic Games and World Table Tennis Championships.

Other important decisions taken were that the ITTF Nominations Committee for the period 2020-2022 was confirmed with details to be released in the next week and it was agreed to open applications for the Head of Integrity position that would be in charge of the ITTF Integrity Unit in the future. This continues the enhancement of the ITTF Governance system which will see the new ITTF Tribunal also being implemented in 2021.

On a positive final note, the ITTF President, Thomas Weikert, wished everyone a joyous holiday season and happy new year, reiterating that he hoped we could again start to meet in person in 2021, something that we are all looking forward to be able to do as soon as possible.

For any queries, please contact [email protected].

Press Releases COVID-19

Australian Open Set For Historic Start, Total Prize Pool Revealed

Australian Open 2021 will take place at Melbourne Park from 8 to 21 February. Tickets will go on sale on Wednesday 23 December.

“This will be an historic Australian Open on so many levels,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.

“For the first time in more than 100 years the Australian Open will start in February and we look forward to offering the players what we believe will be one of their best playing experiences in 2021.

“From the outset, ensuring players have the best possible preparation for the Australian Open, while at all times protecting the precious COVID-free environment that the Victorian community has built through incredible sacrifice and hard work over the past six months, has been paramount.

“It has taken eight months of working alongside government authorities, here in Victoria, nationally and interstate, to give us the opportunity to present an Australian Open that will play a major role in both the economic and psychological reinvigoration and rejuvenation of Melbourne and Victoria.

“AO 2021 is going to be all about supporting local businesses – our tennis coaches, the farmers, food and wine producers, chefs, artists and musicians – and celebrating everything that is great about our country, as well as providing opportunities to those who’ve been so hard hit during the pandemic, particularly in Melbourne and Victoria.”

Australian Open 2021 will feature singles, doubles and wheelchair competitions. AO qualifying will be held offshore, with the women’s event taking place in Dubai, and men’s qualifying in Doha from 10-13 January. The AO Junior Championships has been postponed until later in the year.

Players will compete for more than $80 million in prize money during their time in Australia, with the AO total prize pool remaining at the 2020 level of $71.5 million. Players exiting in the first round of the AO will take home AU $100,000, up 15 per cent from 2020. There have also been significant increases to prize money for qualifying and the early rounds, with the full breakdown to be provided in the coming weeks. 

The world’s top players have been eagerly awaiting final confirmation of the AO dates and details and can now prepare to arrive in Australia from 15 January and undertake mandatory quarantine for 14 days. All players and their teams arriving for the AO are above and beyond the numbers of returning Australians.

“Melbourne is the home of the biggest sporting events and it’s fantastic that arrangements have been settled for Melbourne Park in February,” Acting Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Jaclyn Symes said.

“The 2021 Open will look a bit different and that’s necessary to ensure the safety of everyone, from players, ballkids and the wider community.”

ITTF World Professionals Make Debut at Chinese Table Tennis Super League

The 2020 season welcomes 6 foreign association players, with Lin Yun-Ju joining the Shandong Weiqiao Club, and the 5 female stars forming an “ITTF World Professionals” team to compete at the League. Although it’s not the first time for players from foreign associations featuring at the Chinese Super League, it is the first time for an independent international team to be competing, and it is the joint efforts of the International Table Tennis Federation through their High Performance and Development Department (ITTF) and the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) to make this happen.

After WTT Macao, the 6 international stars followed the Chinese National Team back to their training base in Chengdu. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and training environment, the Chinese National Team also has the world’s best training partners. The ITTF and the CTTA decided to form the “ITTF World Professionals”, much to the excitement of the 5 female players – Adriana Diaz (PUR), Lily Zhang (USA), Jeon Jihee (KOR), Doo Hoi Kem (HKG) and Cheng I-Ching (TPE).

The Chinese Table Tennis Super League is a world-class professional table tennis league, and the CTTA has been trying innovative ways to create a top-level league event, even in times of the pandemic. At the same time, the ITTF is committed to create more opportunities for athletes to compete, as well as enhancing interaction and exchanges among athletes of different associations, and mutual support and assistance among members of the world table tennis family.

As the only male foreign association player, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju said that it was his first-time training in such a large training hall and the atmosphere is very good. He has been following the Chinese National Team’s training routine over the past 2 weeks, the training intensity is very high, it’s been tiring but he’s very happy with it. He added that joining the Shandong Weiqiao Club did give him pressure, but also motivation to play well.

ITTF CEO Steve Dainton stated that despite the ongoing pandemic, it has always been one of the ITTF’s top priority to put athletes at the core, to create more opportunities for them to compete as well as to provide a better training and competition environment for players all over the world. The formation of the ” ITTF World Professionals” was not planned. When the players arrived in China, he discussed with the CTTA to see if they could provide more training and competition opportunities for players from other associations. The CTTA offered the chance for those within the bubble whom were interested to travel to china to practice with the Chinese National Team and make some competitions.  This then eventually led to the successful formation of the women’s ” ITTF World Professionals”. This shows the positive communication and exchanges between the ITTF and the CTTA, and also shows the world how many possibilities the world’s top table tennis players will have in the future after the pandemic.

This Women’s “ITTF World Professionals” Team is organized and supported by the ITTF High Performance and Development Team, led by Ms. Polona Cehovin. China is a table tennis powerhouse with the world’s best players, the participation of an independent international team at the Chinese Super League is the best embodiment of the table tennis family. Steve Dainton recalled that both Lily Zhang and Adriana Diaz had trained at the Chengdu training base when they were young. He also foreseen over a decade ago that they would become global stars, and now that they have established themselves as strong forces in the sport, he believes this is an extremely positive outcome of the exchange between China and the world.

WTT Council Chair and CTTA President Liu Guoliang shared that table tennis is a global sport and the integration of the “ITTF World Professionals” team is a more open approach for the Chinese Super League and could even open up a new chapter for the League in future. For the CTTA, it’s also our way to contribute to the global table tennis family. While ensuring our own growth and development, Chinese table tennis also has the responsibility to deliver advanced training and competition concepts to the world at the same time, and Chinese players will also have more opportunities to interact more and communication with star players from foreign associations as well.

In accordance with COVID19 regulations, the 2020 Chinese Table Tennis Super League will be held in a bubble environment to ensure the health and safety of all the participants.

Press Releases

#RESTART proves Table Tennis can prevail amidst pandemic

China plays crucial role in #RESTART success story

#RESTART would not have become the major success story it is today without the determined efforts of everyone involved from the Chinese side of the operation. A total of 1,497 people were inside the bubble in Mainland China. To date, Table Tennis is the sole international sporting event to return to China since the start of the global pandemic.

Collectively, the local authorities and all the volunteers made the impossible, possible. From providing equipment to carrying out the mammoth, yet vital task of COVID testing, China’s role in the return of international table tennis was key to the overall success of the process.

“Thanks to everyone for all the amazing work. We had some luck with zero COVID-19 cases throughout the bubble. We have made so many special memories and I am very proud about this historic moment for our sport.” – Thomas Weikert, ITTF President

“To restart table tennis has been a huge effort. Back in June, we knew that this pandemic was not going away soon and that organising international events would be very difficult. We knew that we had to try to find a special way. There are so many people to thank: the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) who have done an amazing job led by President Liu Guoliang, our Executive Committee, the Local Organising Committees in Weihai and Zhengzhou, the extremely dedicated staff of the ITTF and CTTA, who have worked so diligently for us to make this happen. I also want to thank especially the players who have made big sacrifices to be here and go through different circumstances to prepare for these events. Everyone involved in the process to make #RESTART a reality are true table tennis heroes. We can proudly say that all the hard work has paid off. We are back in action and the future for our sport is bright!” – Steve Dainton, ITTF CEO and WTT Director

“I think the greatest takeaway from this whole process is to see the determination and love for table tennis around the world. The ITTF Executive Committee’s decision to bring about the return of the World Cups and the ITTF Finals, and then for China to carry out the challenge was a very brave one. The pressure associated with this process was completely different from previous experience as epidemic prevention measures became crucial to the restart of tournament action. China had the courage to accept such an opportunity and challenge, showing to the world that it can successfully prevent and control the epidemic.” – Liu Guoliang, CTTA President and WTT Council Chair

Player safety paramount

From the moment the #RESTART series was announced to the world, the ITTF made the protection of the players’ health and safety and everyone involved in bringing the show to life a top priority.

A comprehensive list of measures was put together after consultation with the World Health Organisation (WHO), taking inspiration from other sporting bodies including the NBA, NHL and the UEFA Champions League, all of whom had successfully managed their return during the pandemic, adapting hygiene standards and the bubble rule to fit within the table tennis infrastructure.

116 people, including players, coaches and staff from 27 countries and regions, entered through Shanghai, Chengdu and Qingdao, and eventually arrived in Weihai and Zhengzhou. CTTA ordered a total of 1,141 PCR tests for the participants, with thousands more provided to all the LOC volunteers, hotel staff and drivers. Tests were carried out every three days during the bubble, while daily tests were conducted for those in the higher risk categories. All of these numbers highlight the magnitude involved to enable the return of international table tennis.

“Maybe a few thousand people were mobilised to prepare these competitions for a handful of athletes. We as players understand that this scenario didn’t come easily.” – Ma Long (China), men’s World no.3, reigning Olympic and World champion

Collaboration the key

The welfare of the players was of paramount importance and there were many logistical hurdles that also required acute attention.

Having agreed that all events would need to be grouped together under air-tight bubble conditions, the ITTF contacted National Associations across the world to find a potential host for #RESTART. Germany and China were the two countries to offer their services and, after careful evaluation, the ITTF Executive Committee voted in favour of the latter option. There were additional important details to address ranging from VISA applications to arranging travel, a particularly difficult dilemma to solve at a time where flight cancellations are a frequent occurrence.

Naturally, the ITTF did not carry the burden on its own with the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) and the Local Organising Committees (LOCs) all offering invaluable assistance from a logistical viewpoint immediately from the early stages of the process. In addition to VISAs and flights, other key areas such as hotel arrangements, transport to the venues and venue security were also managed carefully thanks to close collaboration with CTTA, COC and the LOCs.

“During this pandemic, the ITTF and CTTA have put in an immense amount of effort while all the local authorities have given us tremendous support.” – Chen Meng (China), women’s World no.1

“It’s fantastic! We know how difficult it is to make this happen during these tough times, so of course we are happy that the ITTF and CTTA made this happen.” – Jörgen Persson (Sweden), coach and former World champion

What stands out from the entire process was the sheer scale of the project. From the planning stages through to the end of play, the complications of the pandemic presented the organising bodies with numerous challenges to overcome. When organising professional sporting events of the highest quality, there is always the possibility of the unexpected, yet during these unprecedented times the maze becomes even trickier to navigate.

Air-tight bubble

Strict hygiene standards were enforced throughout the course of #RESTART. Player transportation vehicles to the playing venues were disinfected every three to four hours and there was no mixing with other people from outside of the bubble, including the shuttle bus drivers who were completely isolated from the passengers.

The stringent nature of the bubble meant any exposure to parties outside its protection also had to be accounted for. Hotel staff in Weihai, where the Dishang 2020 ITTF World Cups took place, were required to remain at the facility for an entire month to avoid outside exposure and also underwent regular testing throughout. At the JW Marriott hotel in Zhengzhou, where the table tennis bubble was based during the Bank of Communications 2020 ITTF Finals, special preparations were made to prevent any interaction with the general population. Upwards of five floors were exclusively reserved for everyone involved with #RESTART, with access to special designated elevators, a fully cordoned off restaurant area away and a dedicated entrance offering transportation to the playing venue, keeping the bubble completely air-tight.

When training during the isolation period, players could only interact with those who were placed in the same small training groups to ensure the lowest possible risk of transmission, while athletes who travelled alone and were not placed in a group, trained with the assistance of a robot.

Admittance to the venues was only allowed upon the return of a negative test. Anyone trying to gain access without one was turned away immediately. Mask wearing was mandatory for everyone entering the playing venues, including match officials. The only exception to this rule applied to the playing area while action was underway. The moment players and officials left the court, compulsory mask wearing came back into effect.

“I’m thankful for all the staff conducting PCR tests every week, it was tough for us and tough for them as well. I’m grateful to all the ball pickers and cleaners as well, as players we don’t have to do these jobs and we don’t know their difficulties but looking at them we can tell it is a tough role. They did all of this for us. Thank you very much!” – Tomokazu Harimoto (Japan), men’s World no.5

Fans make long-awaited return

To the joy of the table tennis community, #RESTART saw the return of spectators to the stands. Pulling out all the stops, the symbolic moment arrived at the Bank of Communications 2020 ITTF Finals and at WTT Macao.

The decision to allow fans at the two events was greenlit by the local authorities and the LOCs were responsible for ensuring no interaction between the spectators and members of the bubble – a major logistical challenge, but one which was well worth the effort. The presence of fans, cheering on the athletes, undoubtedly brought the events to life.

“Thank you, China and to the Chinese people. It was very nice to play in front of some fans. Keep supporting our beloved sport. We just love table tennis and I hope we will keep going from strength to strength.” – Simon Gauzy (France), men’s World no.20

Prepared for the unexpected

When putting together a series of events as comprehensive as #RESTART was, one must also be prepared for any potential bumps along the way – a point that carried increased importance in 2020.

Firstly, the rules put in place to protect the health of everyone travelling to China were to be followed with no exceptions. Anyone not adhering to the safety guidelines would have been prohibited from taking any further part in the series and advised to leave.

Contingency plans were also drawn up in the event of a positive test with any affected person required to quarantine further. One of the major advantages of the reduced player training groups meant that even if one of the athletes had tested positive during an event, the action would still have been able to continue with up to 90% of the playing field unaffected.

International table tennis is back!

No matter which way you look at it, the task undertaken to make #RESTART a reality was nothing short of remarkable. The world-class events witnessed many epic and unforgettable moments, etched forever in the history of the sport, all conducted in a safe environment. The zero COVID-19 cases are testament to the incredible planning, organisation and teamwork behind the scenes.

#RESTART has proven that, even against all the odds in the midst of a global pandemic, the sport of table tennis continues to persevere and provide entertainment for its fans across the globe.

Press Releases #RESTART

ITTF Board of Directors Meeting

The key discussion was around the Busan 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships (WTTTC), postponed to 2021. The BoD members received the report of the Local Organising Committee and agreed to go ahead with organising the WTTTC in Busan, Korea Republic, on a reduced format, with a maximum of 32 men’s and women’s teams as per the request of the Korea Table Tennis Association (KTTA) and entrusting the ITTF Executive Committee to make the final decision on the size and format of play, in cooperation with the Technical Commissioner, involving the continental presidents in the final decision.

During the meeting, Mr Igor LEVITIN (RUS) and Mr Leonel GODOY (HON) were ratified as members, replacing Mr Ronald KRAMER (NED) and Mr Jorge HERRERA (GUA).

The reports of the Athletes Commission, Junior, Technical and Gender commissioners were received, and among the key decisions taken, the world title competition ages were adjusted to under 19 and under 15.

It was decided to increase the World Championships Finals to be held in Chengdu, China, in 2022, from 32 to 40 teams.

Green, blue, violet and purple/pink (with specific ranges) were approved as the four new colours for racket coverings (rubbers) to be used on one side of the racket, in addition to red; the other side remaining always black.

The 2021 and 2022 World Youth Table Tennis Championships were allocated to Portugal and Tunisia (pending on a subsequent necessary change in chapter 4 at the next BoD meeting).

Press Releases ITTF Board of Directors