Following on from the successful debut staging in London last year, the World Championship of Ping Pong returns to Sky Sports this weekend at Alexandra Palace.
The tournament sees 64 of the world’s best players take part in a two-day event with a $100,000 prize fund, of which $20,000 goes to the winner, where Russian Maxim Shmyrev aims to win the title for a third consecutive year.
Organised by Matchroom Sport, the company behind PDC darts and World Snooker, the World Championship of Ping Pong is a throwback to the early days of table tennis and aims to catapult ping pong into the big league and onto the international television stage.
The game that fell out of favour with the advent of super-spin inducing rubber bats years ago, is now making its way back to the mainstream thanks to a potent mixture of speed, power and old-fashioned skill courtesy of the technology-free sandpaper bats.
Following its exciting London debut last year, the World Championship of Ping Pong takes place over the first weekend of 2014 at the storied Alexandra Palace in north London.
All 64 players, comprising of all ages and genders, have qualified either as quarter-finalists in 2013 or through one of over 20 qualifying tournaments around the world.
The final qualifying tournament, the ‘Last Chance Saloon’, took place in Harlow in the week building up to the event, in which 96 players competed for the final six places in the 2014 World Championship.
Shmyrev will begin his defence of his title against England’s Emma Vickers in the double elimination group stage at Alexandra Palace on January 4.
He will be joined by qualifiers including England’s Denis Neale and Andrew Baggley, Dutchman Lars Adema and Lithuanian female star Egle Adomelyte.
The tournament takes place over four sessions, with a double elimination group stage featuring eight groups played out on eight tables on the Saturday afternoon before the last 32 enter a knockout stage played across two tables in the evening.
The double elimination group stages consists of eight groups of eight players. The eight groups of play on eight seperate tables, one group on each table, including the main televised table.
Two straight wins will qualify a player for the last 32 while two straight defeats will spell elimination.
The final set of matches in the group will feature players with one win and one defeat competing to stay in the competition. Four players from each group qualify for the knock-out stages.
On Sunday morning, the last 16 will be whittled down to eight quarter-finalists, who will proceed to the evening session to battle it out for the 2014 World Championship of Ping Pong crown.
Matchroom Sport chairman Barry Hearn said: “I am thrilled that once again we are staging the World Championship of Ping Pong in London.
“Last year’s tournament was the start of something really quite exciting and we are building on that for 2014.
“We are taking the sport back to its purest form, back to the old days when it was just a bit of wood and a piece of sandpaper.
“It’s all about player versus player, not scientist versus scientist, and that is what I love about it.
“Last year was great but you’d better get your tickets quickly because next year is going to be even better.”
Sky Sports will be at Alexandra Palace to cover all four sessions from the second World Championship of Ping Pong to be staged at the famous venue over the weekend of January 4-5.
Tony Wrighton presents coverage alongside former Great Britain table tennis star Matthew Syed, with commentary from Colin Wilson and Grant Solder.
For more information about the World Championship of Ping Pong, including the latest news, scores, results and ticket details, visit the official tournament website.
.Saturday 4th January DAY 1: Double Elimination Round LIVE: 12.00pm-4.00pm Sky Sports 3 DAY 1: Knockout Stages – Last 32 LIVE: 6.00pm-10.00pm Sky Sports 3 Sunday 5th January DAY 2: Knockout Stages – Last 16 LIVE: 12.00pm-4.00pm Sky Sports 4 DAY 2: Quarter Finals / Semi Finals / Final LIVE: 6.00pm-9.30pm Sky Sports 4