World Table Tennis (WTT) kicked off the Macao leg of the international competition on Wednesday at Tap Seac Multisport Pavilion. There were three sessions on Wednesday with the evening round billed as the “Top 4 Seed Battle – Day One”.
WTT Macao 2020 is presented by local gaming operator Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG).
The total purse for the competition is US$800,000 (MOP 6.38 million) with players earning a minimum of US$15,000 for playing at the event and the undefeated champions winning US$85,000.
According to the media kit provided by WTT Macao, top stars including World Champion Ma Long and World No. 1 Chen Meng, both from the mainland, are being joined by international players from around the world including Lily Zhang (US), Hugo Calderano (Brazil), Liam Pitchford (UK) and Bernadette Szocs (Romania).
The morning started with Session One in which four battle rounds of two men’s and two women’s singles matches were played followed by the same format in the afternoon. The last session of the day which started at 6:30 pm involved two women’s and two men’s singles matches in the “Top 4 Battle” which saw the 16 players of the earlier sessions whittled down to eight.
According to the handout provided by WTT Macao, the “Top 4 Battle – Day One” was a competition of five games, each with up to five points, in which the Top 4 ranked played “Lucky 8” to decide their final seeding and earn prize money.
This meant the four winners of the men’s and women’s rounds in the morning and afternoon sessions played each other. Player 1 took on player 4 and player 2 took on player 3 in both the men’s and women’s games last night.
In front of a sparse crowd, regardless of the social distancing measure in force in which every third seat was roped off, Ladies World No. 1 Chen Meng and No. 6 Ding Na, both from the mainland, were first up with Chan coming out the winner in four games 5-3, 5-3, 4-5 and 5-1.
Next up were Wang Manyu and Sun Yingsha World Nos. 5 and 3, respectively, both hailing from the mainland as well. Wang won the match, with Sun firing the ball into the net for match point, over five games with the score 5-3, 1-5, 2-5, 5-3 and 5-3.
The spectators were relatively quiet throughout the games apart from sporadic applause and the occasional cheers to a good shot.
Men’s games see louder crowd response
The stadium was beginning to get fuller as the men hit the arena, first up were Ma Long World No.3 and Lin Gaoyuan, World No. 5, both from the mainland as well. Ma is hugely popular and his entrance raised a large cheer, and he didn’t disappoint his fans as he won the match 3-5, 5-2, 5-2 and 5-2 when Lin’s final shot went wide.
When asked about the new five-point format Ma said, “I have never experienced it [5-point game] before in any other international tournaments, so it is a really short, short game.”
The last match of the evening was between World No. 6 Brazilian Hugo Calderano and World No. 2 Xu Xin from the mainland. Xu elicited an even louder response from the crowd who cheered him on and chanted his name throughout the match. Xu won the match, after a shaky start, to the delight of his fans 4-5, 3-5, 5-1, 5-2 and 5-3.
Xu thanked the fans for cheering him on.
Today sees “Battle Two” in the morning and afternoon with the “Top Four Battle” in the evening in which the losers of each play each other and then the winners of each group.
WTT Macao ends on Sunday.
WTT Macao is the first event to be held by WTT since its launch by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in August last year. WTT Director and ITTF CEO Steve Dainton told a press conference at Galaxy Macau in Cotai on Tuesday he hoped to make WTT Macao a regular event.
Liu Shiwen ‘drops out’
Meanwhile, Xinhua reported last night that Liu Shiwen, “the leading figure of the Chinese women’s table tennis team, has dropped out of WTT Macao 2020.” The report did not reveal why Liu dropped out.
Liu won the title of the Best Female Athlete of the Year from ITTF in 2015 and 2019, Xinhua pointed out.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macao News)
Photo by ITTF World