Top players to compete at ITTF Challenge Plus

MUSCAT, March 12 – World No. 15 Mattias Falck of Sweden and 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Achanta Sharath Kamal from India will be in action in the men’s section in the Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open next week.
In the women’s section, World No. 8 Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei and No. 9 Miu Hirano of Japan, and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Manika Batra of India hog limelight in the biggest ever table tennis in the Sultanate to date from March 20 to 24.
At the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex indoor courts, there will be 100 players in action in the men’s, while 59 are registered for the women’s section.
Most of the world’s high ranked players — from World No. 15 in the men’s and World No. 8 in the women’s section – are sure to exhibit top class TT in the mega championship.
From hosts Oman, Assad al Raisi, Haitham al Mantheri, Muhannad al Balushi and Al Julanda al Kharousi are trying their luck in the $65,000 total prize money competition.
Shaikh Saad bin Mohammed al Saadi, Minister of Sports Affairs, will be the chief guest for the concluding ceremony on March 24.
International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) President Thomas Weikert will arrive in the Sultanate during the tournament.
Oman Table Tennis Committee (OTTC) Chairman Abdullah Bamakhalef said players from 40 countries will compete in the top TT event to be hosted by the Sultanate.
“We are ready for the biggest ever TT competition in the Sultanate. It will be a great occasion for the table tennis enthusiasts in the country. We look forward to a successful ITTF tournament here.”
He said logistical and infrastructure arrangements are in place for the tournament.
Oman TT national head coach Mohammed Atoum said it will be a major event for Oman.
“Our players will of course have a memorable experience at the top level tournament. Seeing the top level players in the game is also a great occasion for the game in the country,” Atoum told Oman Observer.
The coach from Jordan said the tournament will also give significant impetus for Omani paddlers for the next Arab TT.
The first qualifying stage of the Oman Open will be held on March 20 and 21 and the main tournament will be held on March 22 and 24.
In the men’s section, Swede Mattias Falck (World No. 15) is the top seed for the Muscat tournament. Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan (World No. 19) and Lin Yun-Ju (No. 26) are second and third seeds, while Indians Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (No. 28) and Sharath Kamal (No. 33) complete the top five seeds.
Ten Indian players will be in action in the event, while eight players take part from Egypt and Kazakhstan field five men’s players.
In the women’s section, Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei (World No. 8) is the top seed followed by Japanese World No. 9 Miu Hirano and compatriots Hitomi Sato (No.12), Saki Shibata (No. 14). Romania’s Bernadette Szocs (No. 18) completes the top five.
India also top the women’s participation with 10 players, while eight are competing from Japan and five from Egypt.
Chinese players are absent from the tournament due to the Chinese New Year holidays.