SINGAPORE – Professional table tennis is about to get bigger and richer next year, with a revamp of the International Table Tennis Federation’s (ITTF) professional tour through their new commercial vehicle, World Table Tennis (WTT).
A new event structure announced on Tuesday (March 3) will see a total prize purse of US$13 million (S$18.1m) a year, more than double the current amount.
Modelled after tennis’ Grand Slams, the top tier will comprise four US$2-3million Grand Smashes tournaments, with each 10-day event featuring 64 men’s and women’s singles players in the main draw, as well as doubles competitions.
There will be three other tiers under the WTT series. These include the US$1-US$1.5 million WTT Cup Finals featuring the top 16 men and women players.
There is also the US$400,000-US$600,000 WTT Champion Series, which include four male and female events for the 32 highest-ranked paddlers. Lower-ranked and up-and-coming players can compete in the US$50,000-US$300,000 WTT Contender series, which is split into the Star Contenders (six events) and Contenders competitions (up to 14 events), which allow for more qualifiers.
World No. 9 Singaporean Feng Tianwei is excited to hear about the WTT, saying: “This is good news and will be a boost for the development of table tennis from the sporting and commercial perspectives, as well as the development of players across all levels.”
National paddler Wong Xinru added: “This new format of play is interesting and stimulates young developing players like me to play to our maximum potential. This also gives us an opportunity to improve at a quicker rate due to the many events available and standard of play.”
ITTF CEO Steve Dainton called it a “huge project that will revolutionise” the sport. He added: “Through World Table Tennis, we are endeavouring to build a platform that really benefits our athletes and fans, enabling better structured events and higher prize money.”
The WTT is currently looking for national associations, host countries, cities and private entities to bid for these events, with submission for final bids due in May and the confirmation of hosts a month later.
On the sporting front, with entry places for host nations, staging these events will give countries and governing bodies access to elite competitions and ensure that home-grown talent will be able to participate in highly competitive events.
ITTF president Thomas Weikert said: “We want that players are more satisfied by prize money and events themselves, while we also want to support our members by making more money to reinvest into the development of our key stakeholders.”
Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) CEO Wong Hui Leng hailed the development, saying: “With the new initiatives, we hope that it will create an environment that would further grow the sport, attract more media attention, broadcasters, fans and sponsors.”
On the possibility of Singapore hosting a tournament, she added that the STTA is keen to bring in an international event if they are able to secure support and funding from the stakeholders and sponsors.
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