by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
An unprecedented prize find of US$ 1,500,000, the T2 Asia-Pacific Table Tennis League (T2 APAC) has officially announced an initial list of 13 players, who will compete in the ground breaking event to be launched in Hong Kong in the second half of 2017.
Notably included is Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, the winner of no less than 26 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles, more than any other player in history; in addition to playing he assumes the role of Director of Player Operations.
Meanwhile, for the women, Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, medallist at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games will be on duty, as will the player who in the past year has made more progress than any other amongst the elite, Chinese Taipei, Cheng I-Ching.
In January 2016 she stood at no.22 on the Women’s World Rankings, now in January 2017 she is at no.6.
“The unique concept of T2 APAC promises to bring the sport of table tennis to a whole new level and I am delighted to be part of this exciting competition before I hang up my paddles for good”, Vladimir Samsonov
Prominent players and they are not alone; also named is Korea’s Joo Saehyuk, silver medallist in the Men’s Team event at the London 2012 Olympic Games and unquestionably the greatest defensive player of the modern era.
Likewise Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An, Men’s Doubles gold medallist in partnership with compatriot Chuang Chih-Yuan at the Liebherr 2013 World Championships in Paris, will compete. He will be present alongside England’s Paul Drinkhall, the player he beat in the final of the Boys’ Singles event at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Madrid.
The silver medal in Madrid for Paul Drinkhall but at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, partnering wife Joanna, it was Mixed Doubles gold for the Englishman. However, perhaps the most lingering memory was his lap of honour after beating Emmanuel Lebesson, later in the year to be crowned European champion, to secure a semi-final place for England at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur.
Exciting players and there is one more to note; Alexander Shibaev, twice an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles silver medallist and the player to whom Russia very much looks as their leading name, will also compete.
Likewise for the women, there are further celebrated names on the acceptance list.
Romania’s Elizabeta Samara, the 2015 European champion and the only European player ever to reach the final of the Women’s World Cup, when she secured the silver medal in 2012 in Huangshi, will be in action. Also appearing will be Yang Haeun, the first Korean since Hyun Junghwa in 1993 to secure a World Championships title. In 2015 in Suzhou, she won the Mixed Doubles event in partnership with China’s Xu Xin.
Success at a World Championships; also Women’s Singles winners on the ITTF World Tour, Korea’s Jeon Jihee, Hungary’s Georgina Pota and Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm are included in the prestigious list, as is Southeast Asian Games gold medallist Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut.
“After sharing the concept of T2 APAC with many of the top players from all over the world in the past few months, we are very excited to unveil our first batch of players who have signed on for the inaugural season. “We are confident that with the multi-faceted cast we have put together so far, the fans will be in for a fantastic season of T2 APAC action, and we will unveil the rest of our Season one line-up very soon”, Jeff Chue, Chief Executive Officer and Commissioner of T2 APAC.
The brainchild of Shanghai’s Frank Ji, the inaugural T2 Asia-Pacific Table Tennis League 2017 will feature 24 world-class players, 12 men and 12 women with ensuing years witnessing different venues.
In itself that is nothing new, what is new is that a unique competition format will be presented. A player draft system will form selection, an innovative scoring system with 24 minute matches plus extensive in depth media coverage will be organised.
Further details and the names of the remaining eleven players, four women and seven men, will be announced in the near future.