A Golden Lift in Doha

Qatar Open Preview

ITTF Press Release

Doha, Qatar, 4 March 2002.

Imagine WANG Liqin, MA Lin, KONG Linghui, LIU Guozheng, LIU Guoliang, WANG Nan and ZHANG Yining in the same lift. If they brought all their Olympic Gold Medals, World Championships Medals and World Cup trophies, the lift probably wouldn’t be able to take off!!

However you can meet them all - together with the rest of the World top - in the lift at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha where they are preparing for the Qatar Open, the strongest Pro Tour ever beginning today with the qualification rounds.

Men’s singles presents 17 players from the World’s top 20 and it is almost the same in women’s singles where only the 2 top Europeans Tamara BOROS (CRO) and Mihaela STEFF (ROM) are missing.

The reason is obvious. Qatar is giving table tennis a golden lift with the biggest prize money ever. 205.000 US dollars are at stake and that is double the prize money at other Pro Tours this year. The winner of Men’s Singles can go home with 34.000 US. Since the distribution between the men’s and the women’s events is 60-40 the Women’s Singles Champion will receive 22.000.

Another reason to be here is that the Pro Tour Point System for qualification to the Grand Finals has changed. Now 1 US Dollars simply counts as 1 point, which means of course that Qatar is an important step on the road to the Finals in Stockholm in December.

It is almost like the World Championships. All the best Chinese are here, and everybody else has come to challenge them.

Nr. 3 on the World ranking Vladimir SAMSONOV (BLR), who beat the World Champion WANG Liqin at the World Cup in November will be one of those players who might be able to keep the Chinese away from going home with all the money. I will also be interesting to see what the young rising German star Timo BOLL can do. He has made a big step forward so that he is now nr. 5 in the World.

Jan-Ove WALDNER (SWE) has recovered from the injury that forced him to surrender in the 4th game against BOLL in the final at the Austrian Open – and then the winner of the last two year Qatar Open, Zoran PRIMORAC (CRO) has to be mentioned.

PRIMORAC seems always to play his best in Qatar and he calls it “my tournament” – this year everybody is here in order to steel it away from him.

In women’s singles it will probably be all Asian – with RYU Ji Hye (COR), KIM Hyon Hui (PRK) and LI Jia Wei (SIN) as the strongest challengers to the Chinese.

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