Table tennis worlds kick off in Houston

Xinhua
24 Nov 2021, 11:55 GMT+10
HOUSTON, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) — The 2021 World Table Tennis Championships kicked off in the U.S. city of Houston on Tuesday, with a youthful Chinese squad amongst the galaxy of stars at the week-long table tennis spectacle.
The world’s top players are going to face each other until Nov. 29 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in the “Bayou City.” It marks the first time that the sport’s prestigious event has been staged in the Americas.
In the men’s singles, world No. 1 Fan Zhendong is leading China alongside Zhou Qihao, Lin Gaoyuan, Wang Chuqin and Liang Jingkun.
As one of China’s main threats in the event, Japan features teenage sensation Tomokazu Harimoto, Koki Niwa, Yukiya Uda, Masataka Morizono and Shunsuke Togami.
Germany will hinge on veteran Timo Boll, Patrick Franziska, Benedikt Duda and Ruwen Filus in the European teams’ quest.
Sweden’s Mathias Falck, runner-up in the 2019 worlds in Budapest, and Brazil’s Hugo Calderano will also be players to watch in Houston.
Intriguing clashes are anticipated in the women’s field as seven of the top 10 players prepare for battle.
As the world’s top two paddlers, the Chinese duo of Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha are deemed as title favorites, while world No. 3 Mima Ito from Japan is expected to mount a serious challenge.
Meanwhile, China and the United States will join forces with two pairs formed of paddlers from both countries to compete in mixed doubles competition at the worlds on the year marking the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy.
Reigning champions Ma Long, Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin will not defend their titles at the event as China has opted to send younger players in preparation for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.
The flagship event features 128 players in men’s and women’s singles and 64 pairs in men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles competing in a revamped and expanded straight knockout format for the first time.
The World Table Tennis Championships has a storied history, with the first event held in London in 1926. The prestigious event welcomes the best table tennis players worldwide and has a global reach of over 500 million fans across TV and digital platforms.
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