Who Will Shine Brightest As World Table Tennis Arrives In Doha?

Tomokazu Harimoto heads the Men’s Singles seeding list (Photo: ITTF)

As the WTT Contender Doha 2021 qualification event draws to a close, eight world-class players from each category have secured main draw tickets for the inaugural WTT event of 2021, held in Doha, Qatar.

The eight qualified players will be randomly placed into the main draw, however, with the Round of 32 draw having already been released, it is clear that each of the players from the play-in stage will encounter tough opposition in the days to come.

After the news of Team China’s withdrawal from the prestigious event amid concerns surrounding the pandemic, all eyes fall on Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto and Mima Ito, who consequently headline both the Men’s and Women’s Singles categories respectively.

Challenging Road Ahead For Top Seed Harimoto

The clear favourite in the men’s side of the draw, 2020 ITTF Hungarian Open Champion, Harimoto, won’t be without his fair share of hard goings in Doha. From the offset, 17-year-old Harimoto is faced with the prospect of Chinese Taipei stalwart Chih-Yuan Chuang, a vastly experienced player who has seen it all on the international scene.

This will be no easy match-up for Harimoto: the two previous head-to-head contests between the two favoured the strength and determination of Chuang who prevailed on both occasions, much to the bitter disappointment of Harimoto fans across the globe.

Chuang is not the only obstacle for the young Japanese star, for situated on the opposite side of the draw is yet another threat for Harimoto: the No.2 seed from Brazil, Hugo Calderano.

Entering the event as one of two South American male participants, Calderano will have the support of an entire continent on his side as he looks to contend with Harimoto’s campaign for the first WTT title of the year.

Hugo Calderano ready to showcase his talent in Doha (Photo: ITTF)

Furthermore, Calderano also appears to have an element of fortune on his side. Although the Brazilian must contend with fellow compatriot Gustavo Tsuboi in their initial Round of 32 encounter, due to the nature of the draw, Calderano could see himself facing-off against two much lower ranked competitors from the qualification event prior to the semi-finals.

In contrast, his arch-rival for gold, Harimoto, will have to negotiate the quarter-final stage before the possibility of meeting a qualifier comes his way. Even then, the chances of this happening are slim with England’s Liam Pitchford and Japan’s Uda Yukiya blocking the way for the qualifiers.

However, it will take more than a tough draw to hold-back top seed Harimoto. With an ever-growing tally of career achievements, the teenager has managed to overcome the toughest of opposition during his time on the pro tour and there is no reason to suggest that he can’t do it once more in Doha!

Can Anyone Stop Ito In Doha?

In the women’s category, World No.3 Mima Ito looks to be in good stead as she tops the main draw.

Ito’s first match-up is against the event’s sole Dutch representative, Britt Eerland. Currently ranked at 27 in the world and with no previous victories against the top seed from Japan, Eerland will have to display an outstanding level of table tennis if she is to stop Ito in her tracks but this is professional sport and is anything but predictable!

Mima Ito the player to beat in Women’s Singles contest (Photo: ITTF)

Following Ito’s clash with Eerland, the victor will face either Germany’s sole main event competitor, Nina Mittelham, or a qualifier. The favourite on paper to take her Round of 32 contest, Mittelham has more than held her own on the pro scene and should therefore be taken with caution by that of Ito or Eerland.

Another potential threat to Ito’s WTT Middle East Hub bid for glory is none other than second seed, Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei. Positioned on the far side of the draw, Cheng, will be preparing for a final to remember against the Japanese title favourite – results permitting of course!

Reaching the finals, however, will be no easy task for Cheng; first she must overcome one of the sport’s most determined competitors in Romania’s Bernadette Szocs. Despite holding an overall advantage in previous head-to-heads, Cheng will need to keep her guard up against Szocs, who has more than enough talent to challenge the world’s best table tennis players.

With some of the world’s finest players taking centre stage in Doha, we can expect many an exciting battle over the course of the week. From Tomakzu Harimoto and Hugo Calderano in the Men’s Singles race, to Mima Ito and Cheng I-Ching in the Women’s Singles, avid table tennis fans can be rest assured of a spectacular display well worth a watch!

New to SD Sport? Be sure to follow our Instagram page for all things table tennis!

To keep up-to-date with the world of table tennis, follow SD Sport on social media and subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking the respective icons below:

Facebook_logo_36x36.svg

twitter-312464_960_720YouTube-logo-full_color

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.