Hong Kong to host new table tennis league - but marquee names yet to commit

Players from Hong Kong, China and Japan have yet to commit to the season-long competition, which will be held in the second half of the year in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 7:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 9:53am

Marquee names are missing from the team list for the inaugural T2 Asia-Pacific League, touted to be the richest event in the world with unprecedented prize purse of more than US$1.5 million, which organisers say will be held in Hong Kong in the second half of the year.

The confirmed players’ list so far not does include top players from Hong Kong, powerhouse China, Japan or Germany after organisers announced the first batch of 13 players out of a total of 24 on Tuesday.

World number five Feng Tianwei currently heads the women’s list while the men’s side will be led by world number eight Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, a six-time Olympian and singles semi-finalist at the 2016 Rio Games.

The Hong Kong Table Tennis Association has yet to commit on whether local players will take part in the inaugural competition.

Hong Kong’s juniors score their best ever haul at the table tennis World Championships in Cape Town

“We are still having talks with the organisers and have yet to decide whether we would send any players,” said table tennis association chairman Tony Yue Kwok-leung. “This is going to be played under a new format and we need more information on it before we can make a decision.”

The 2017 league will see Hong Kong playing hosts for the entire season, with a new host country coming in each season thereafter.

The 24 players (12 men’s and 12 women’s) will compete in separate but concurrent men’s, women’s, and mixed-team league competitions.

According to organisers, the event will showcase "a unique competition model and presentation format, as well as innovative features such as a player draft system, 24-minute games and a unique scoring system to ensure a level playing field and unpredictability" of games.

Rio table tennis coverage reached over half a billion during the Olympic Games with 371 million Chinese tuning in

Feng, who has recently withdrawn from the Singapore national team, will be joined by sixth-ranked Cheng I-Ching of Taiwan, Yang Haeun and Jeon Jihee of South Korea, Thai sensation Suthasini Sawettabut and three-time European champion Elizabeta Samara of Romania, while the men’s players will include former world junior champion Chen Chien-An of Taiwan, Joo Saehyuk of South Korea, widely considered the best defensive player in the world, England’s Paul Drinkhall and Russia’s Alexander Shibaev.

“The unique concept of Asia-Pacific League promises to bring the sport to a whole new level and I am delighted to be part of this exciting competition before I hang up my paddles for good,” said veteran player, Samsonov, 40, who will also double-up as the director of player operations in the new competition.

The organisers said they would announce more confirmed players in the coming weeks.