Adham Sharara (centre), President of International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and Khaleel Al Mohannadi (third left), President of Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) along with other officials during a press conference in Doha yesterday. Picture by: Abdul Basit
Doha: The stage is set for yet another sporting extravaganza as Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) is gearing up to host the 20th edition of the Qatar Open from February 18 to 23.
This year QTTA has decided to host the championship on a grand scale as it will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the tournament, informed officials of ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) and QTTA at a joint press conference here yesterday.
“The 2014 edition (of Qatar Open) is offering the highest prize money on the ITTF Tour as Qatar Table Tennis Association is having a grand celebration of 20 years of table tennis in Qatar,” said Adham Sharara, President of ITTF.
“The Qatar Open will be giving half a million dollars as prize money which is the highest on the ITTF Tour and the second highest prize money event will take place in China in June this year which will have $350m as prize money,” added Sharara.
The tournament, part of the ITTF’s six-stop Super Series, will be held in Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles, women’s Under-21 and men’s Under-21 categories.
The five other stops for the ITTF Tour are China, Japan, Germany, Kuwait, and South Korea.
The ITTF official praised QTTA for been one of the association which took the lead in staging women events along with men and gave credit for Khaleel Al Mohannadi, President of Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA), who has been president for the last 20 years for the historic step.
“Initially the Qatar Open was restricted to only men players but after ITTF brought pressure for three continuous years we were able to introduce women’s games along with men’s. It was for the first time in Qatar that such a thing happened, women playing alongside men, in any sport, so QTTA set a trend,” said the 60-year-old Canadian national, president of ITTF since 1999.
Qatar Open saw the women players for the first time in 1998, with China’s Li Ju winning the title.
Another first will be added to this year’s event as all the players making it to the main draw of 64 will receive prize money.
“Prize money will be awarded to all players who make it to the round of 64. Earlier, players who qualified for the round of 32 in the main draw were eligible for it,” informed the QTTA President.
The Men’s and Women’s singles winner will get $35,000 each while the runner-up in both the section will carry home $17,000. The third place finisher gets $9,000. Players who lose in the quarter-finals will be eligible for $4,000, while those crashing out in the round of 32 will be entitle to $2,500 and the first round losers of the main draw $1,500.
The Men’s and Women’s Doubles winners will get $9,500 and the runners-up $4,700. The third and fourth place finishers will get $2,400 and $1,250.
In the Under-21 category, the winners in both the Men’s and women’s section, will receive $3,000, while the runner-up will get $1,500.
The third place finisher gets $750 and the fourth place winner will pocket $500.
The organisers said with more players coming under the prize money umbrella the 2014 Qatar Open will have more entries in the qualifiers.
The closing date to submit entries is tomorrow.
The first edition of the tournament was held at Hotel Sheraton in 1994 and was held only in the Men’s Singles category with Kim Taek-Soo of South Korea clinching the title.
The number of players taking part in the championship has grown over the years. The first edition in 1994 saw 20 players from four different countries take part while last year, 207 players representing 33 countries were seen in action.
Last year, the Chinese duo of Ma Long and Ding Ning won the Men’s and Women’s singles title.
In 2002, Qatar Open added the U-21 categories for both Men and Women with an idea to give more chances to talented youngsters.