(by Steve Hopkins)
The first ITTF events of 2021 are slated to start this week in Doha. The “Middle East Hub” is a series of four events that begin with the WTT Contender Event on February 28, then the WTT Star Contender Event on March 5, then the World Singles Qualification Tournament on March 14, and finally the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament on March 18. Earlier this month, Hong Kong announced that their players would not be competing as an extra safety precaution for this very important Olympic year. Doha officials responded on February 16 by announcing tightened safety measures including the absence of fans and two tests prior to departure to Doha – where they will then enter a player bubble designed to insulate players in the four events.
Today, China announced that they will also not be participating in the Doha events. This is another blow to overall quality of the roster of players – but there will be no shortage of great players participating. The Contender Event, for example, includes Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Liam Pitchford, Simon Gauzy, and Mattias Falck, and the Star Contender Event includes Patrick Franziska, Koki Niwa, and Jun Mizutani.
Check in with ButterflyOnline.com for news and scores as the ITTF Calendar heats up ahead of the Olympic Games this July.