World TT stars Ovtcharov, Samsonov to compete at India Open

New Delhi, Jan 30 (IANS) World No.6 table tennis player Dmitrij Ovtcharov of Germany and No.8 Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus have confirmed their participation in the $120,000 India Open of the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour from February 14 to 19 here, it was announced on Monday.

Ovtcharov, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and winner of team bronze in the 2016 Olympics will be the top seed and is expected to be the firm favourite given his current form.

He is however likely to face stiff competition from Samsonov, easily the most experienced and accomplished player on the roster. He went all the way to the quarter-finals in the recently concluded Hungarian Open, underlining the fact that he is a force to reckon with even at 40 years.

Amazingly, he is only the second paddler in the history of the game to stay in the Top 10 for 15 long years. He has also won a whopping 26 ITTF Pro Tour titles, the most by any player.

The women’s challenge will be spearheaded by the Hongkong duo, World No.14 Doo Hoi Kem and No.19 Ching Lee Ho.

“We are really excited about bringing the Seamaster2017 ITTF World Tour to India,” promoters 11Even Sports’ chairperson Vita Dani said.

“Our goal has been to promote table tennis in the country and are looking forward to host such a strong pool of talent in this prestigious event,” she added.

The India Open is part of the elite Seamaster2017 ITTF World Tour, with only 11 other countries hosting its events. Apart from Hungary that has already hosted the first leg in January, Qatar (February 23-26), Japan (June 16-18), Korea (April 20-23); China (June 22-25); Australia (June 29-July 2); Czech Republic (August 24-27); Austria (September 1-3); Bulgaria (September 7-10); Germany (November 10-12) and Sweden (November 16-19) will see action at this highest level.

Among other exciting players to watch out for are Japan duo of World No.16 Koki Niwa and No.21 Yuto Muramatsu and No.40 Paul Drinkhall.

A five-time national champion, Drinkhall has had a great 2016, winning the bronze medal in the World Championships (Team).

Another interesting player in the fray is World No.64 Harimoto Tomakazu of Japan. The 15-year-old prodigy, who became the youngest World junior champion last year, has been making rapid strides at the senior level too.

The Indian challenge will be led by experienced Achanta Sharath Kamal and young Soumyajit Ghosh.

The Indian charge in the women’s category will be led by 21-year-old Manika Batra along with the experienced Mouma Das.

In the men’s doubles event, the Japanese duo of Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima will start as the top seeded pair, followed by the German pair of Ruwen Filus and Ricardo Walther and Robert Gardos of Austria and Lubomir Jancarik of Czech Republic.

India’s fight will be led by the team of Amalraj Anthony and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Sanil Shetty and Sharath Kamal.

The women’s doubles will see the Hong Kong pair of Hoi Kem and Ching Lee start as the top seed, while Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm and Hungary’s Georgina Pota will be the second seeded team.

Four teams will represent India in the women’s doubles with Manika Batra and Mouma Das teaming up to lead the campaign.