The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has been left mighty impressed with organisation of the first ever World Tour event in India and is confident that smooth conduct of the tournament will attract more foreign stars next year.
The $150,000 India Open, offering the highest ever prize money for a table tennis tournament in the country, has got full marks from ITTF from the staging point of view but falls short on players’ participation with the Chinese, South Koreans and some leading Europeans giving a cold shoulder to the event.
“From the hotel stay to the field of play, we can’t complain. The facilities are world class. I wish more players turned up considering the big prize money on offer. However, I am confident the players who have come here will spread the good word and in the future, we can have much better participation,” ITTF competition manager Didier Leroy, who has overseen conduct of multiple world championships said.
Leroy, himself a former player from Belgium, had come to New Delhi way back in 1987 to take part in the World Championships. That was the last time India hosted the prestigious event. He recalled how things have changed for the better.
“I still remember we were made to practice in makeshifts tents and many players fell sick including myself. It is unfortunate that perception of India still remains. However, it is bound to change if you keep organising events of this stature,” said Leroy.
He went on to add that Indian players such as Sharath Kamal are well respected in fraternity but a bigger pool of world class paddlers will further fuel the growth of the sport.
The tournament is organised by 11Even Sports, which also conducts domestic tournaments, including the national championships.
Another senior official here is Polona Cehovin Susin, who is the ITTF director of education and training. She is of the opinion that India must have continuity in organising big events. “That is the best way of generating interest amongst the players. In addition to that, the Indian federation is already a very active member of the ITTF. The game has grown here but there is space to do a lot more.
“I represented erstwhile Yugoslavia and I remember players were always apprehensive about coming to play there. The same is the case with India. Only after coming here, they can see that there is no problem at all,” said Susin, who is now a Slovenian national.
The last ITTF tournament of this size took place in India just before the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
The entire field has only two top-10 players in world number five Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany, who won the India Open in 2010, and eighth-ranked Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus.