Star-studded field at Oman Open
A star-studded field that include some of the top European and Asian names are set to showcase their mettle at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open, which gets underway with the qualifying rounds at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex (SQSC) from Wednesday. Following two days of qualifying rounds, the main rounds will be played from March 13-15.
This is the second successive year that the Oman Table Tennis Committee (OTTC) has managed to bring the high-profile tournament to the sultanate and the hosting underlines the growing stature of Oman as a top destination for world-class paddlers.
Portugal's Marcos Freitas is the top seed in the men's singles and is followed by Denmark's Jonathan Groth, Omar Assar of Egypt and Achanta Sharath Kamal of India in the seedings’ list. The top-four paddlers have yet to win any title so far this year and they will be looking forward to claim it in Muscat.
The top-four are expected to face stiff competition from Slovakia's Wang Yang, former European champion Emmanuel Lebesson of France, 2018 European silver medallist Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania and Tiago Apolonia of Portugal. Groth's last major success was in June when he was silver medallist at the 2019 European Games while top-seed Freitas and Assar won on the ITTF World Tour way back in 2014.
For Sharath Kamal, the last notable individual success came in 2010 though the Indian won a silver at the ITTF World Tour in Hungary in the doubles along with Sathiyan Gnanasekaran. Also in the mix for a shy at the title are Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko and Portugal’s João Geraldo. Both enjoyed success in February when Gerassimenko won in Spain while Geraldo was runner-up on home soil in Lisbon. In Muscat, Gerassimenko is the No 10 seed and Geraldo is the No 22 seed.
Strong presence of Japanese women
In the women's events, a strong representation from Japan is led by top-seed and four ITTF Challenge Series winner Hitomi Sato. Along with her, the other top players are No 3 seed Miyu Kato, No 4 seed Honoka Hashimoto and No 11 Maki Shiomi.
Hashimoto won the title at the recent ITTF event in Spain. No 2 seed Romanian Bernadette Szocs is expected to provide a stiff challenge to the Japanese contingent along with No 5 seed Slovakia's Barbora Balazova. Hashimoto and Sato are the top seeds in the women's doubles while Belgium's Martin Allegro and Florent Lambiet are the No 1 in men's doubles. And in the U21 men’s singles, India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar heads the list while Maki Shiomi is on top in U21 women’s singles.