(by Steve Hopkins/Photo by ITTF)
The 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup is one of the annual highlights of the ITTF calendar. This year, the event will be held in Chengdu, China beginning on November 29th. There are 20 players who are invited each year based upon qualifying events and the August World Rankings. The current World Champions is automatically qualified. Seventeen players qualify through Continental Cups. In years where the host nation does not have a player that qualifies, they are provided one place (this year, that was not necessary as the maximum number of two Chinese players have already qualified). The final player named is an ITTF Wild Card selection.
This year, Ma Long qualified first as the World Champion. Fan Zhendong is the Asian Cup Winner. Other Cup Winners include Omar Assar (Africa Cup Winner), Hugo Calderano (Pan Am Cup Winner), Heming Hu (Oceania Cup Winner), and Dimitrij Ovtcharov (Europe Cup Winner). Kanak Jha qualified by finishing 2ndin the Pan Am Cup. Additional players who qualified based upon where they finished in the Asian Cup are Koki Niwa, Tomokazu Harimoto, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Sangsu Lee, and Chun Ting Wong. Additional players who qualified based upon where they finished in the Europe Cup include Vladimir Samsonov, Timo Boll, Daniel Habeson, Simon Gauzy, Jonathan Groth, and Kristian Karlsson. The ITTF Wild Card selection this year is Mattias Falck – likely a selection based upon his Finals appearance at the 2019 World Table Tennis Championships earlier this year.
The seedings will not be set until October – as the event will use the most recent World Rankings. There will be two stages, with the bottom 12 players competing in groups with the top 8 advancing to play 8 seeded players in singles.
A year ago, the 2018 Men’s World Cup saw Fan Zhendong defeat Timo Boll. As of the August rankings, both players have slid in the rankings considerably, but a lot could change over the next two month. With 20 of the World’s Best competing, it is sure to be exciting again this year.