Matchroom Sport are set to stage the inaugural World Championship of Ping Pong at the iconic Alexandra Palace this weekend.
Sky Sports will be showing all the relentless and fast-paced play from both days of competition live on January 5-6 as 64 players from around the world will pick up their sandpaper bats and battle it out for a share of the $100,000 prize fund.
The company behind the revival of darts and snooker as major televised sports watched by millions around the globe, Matchroom’s latest sporting revolution aims to catapult one of the most popular participarion sports in the world onto the international television stage.
The winner will receive a cheque for $20,000 in Sunday night’s final at Alexandra Palace, a venue which has just staged another Matchroom-promoted event in the PDC World Darts Championship over the festive period.
Using traditional sandpaper hard bats, the World Championship of Ping Pong is a throwback to the early days of table tennis.
Players from 20 nations will compete for a $100,000 prize fund amid the dazzle of flashing lights, razamatazz, John McDonald’s distinctive tones as master of ceremonies, thumping music that Matchroom events are renowned for, a far cry from the action played out around the tables at last summer’s Olympic Games in London.
Andrew Baggaley, one of England’s top-three table tennis players, is the only member from Great Britain’s Olympic team to enter this weekend’s tournament.
The five-time Commonwealth Games medallist will experience a completely different style of tournament from what he is used to at Olympic and international level, with bats provided by the organisers and players will be able to call upon a ‘double point’ orange ball once every match.
The initial eight-man group stage follows a double elimination format in which two wins will send a player through to the next round and two losses send them crashing out.
Played over the Saturday afternoon, there will be 80 matches in total to see the field reduced from 64 down to 32 players.
It’s on to the knockout stage after that as the best ping pong players on the planet go head-to-head for a place in Sunday night’s grand final.
All matches will be best of three games, first to 11 with a two point winning margin required, except for the grand final which will be best of five.
Commenting on the launch of his latest sporting innovation, Barry Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport, said: “We are very excited to be promoting this event and although it’s a leap into the unknown for us, I believe that ping pong is a sensational sport that has a limitless potential to get bigger and bigger.
“We will have something like 15 to 20 countries represented and this is something we will be looking to build upon in future years.
“Ping pong is a game for all ages and nationalities and is a truly global sport and we will be looking to announce some big name sponsors for the event as it gets closer.
“We’re looking to get a big crowd in at the Ally Pally for what will be the first of many major ping pong events.”
Sky Sports will broadcast live coverage of all four sessions from the inaugural World Championship of Ping Pong over the weekend of January 5-6, presented by Dan Lobb and former Great Britain table tennis star Matthew Syed, with commentary from Colin Wilson and Grant Solder.
.“Ping pong and Barry Hearn collide at Alexandra Palace” By Chris Osborne for BBC Sport
Saturday 5th January Double Elimination Round LIVE: 12.00pm-4.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Knockout Stages – Round 1 LIVE: 6.00pm-9.30pm – Sky Sports 2 Sunday 6th January Knockout Stages – Last 16 LIVE: 12.30pm-3.55pm - Sky Sports 2 Quarter Finals / Semi Finals / Final LIVE: 6.00pm-9.30pm – Sky Sports 4