Kuwait Open to get under way
The first super Series tournament of the year, the Kuwait Open, is set to begin today, with a top prize of $300,000.
No less than four men and three women participating in the Open during their careers have won singles titles on the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour. Belgium's Jean-Michel Saive, Brazil's Cazuo Matsumoto, Russia's Fedor Kuzmin and Vasily Lakeev are the four redoubtables who must compete in the qualification stage of the Men's Singles event. Korea's Jeon Jihee, Japan's Sayaka Hirano and Spain's Sara Ramirez are the top-tier athletes who will participate in the first phase of the Women's Singles competition.
In the Men's Singles event, players finishing in first place in each of the 20 groups advance directly to the main draw; those in second place proceed to the preliminary round. The winners of the preliminary round matches plus two "lucky losers" from that round join the 32 seeds in the first round. In the Women's Singles event, only players finishing in first place in each of the 16 groups progress to the main draw.
Play in the main draw commences on Saturday February 16.
ZHANG Jike, the reigning Olympic and World champion, occupies the second seeded position in the draw behind colleague XU Xin, winner of the Men's Singles title at the GAC GROUP 2012 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in December.
Meanwhile, DING Ning, the reigning World champion, is top seed in the Women's Singles competition with LI Xiaoxia, the Olympic gold medalist.