The idea sounds tempting. This Wednesday, a new table tennis tournament series begins in Qatar, which is based on the more lucrative sports of tennis and golf. Four top competitions are planned per year, which are not called “Grand Slam” but “Grand Smashes”. In addition, there should be more money for the players, more entertainment and – when the pandemic is over – even tournaments in front of the pyramids of Giza or the skyline of New York. Alone: The major project “World Table Tennis” (WTT) caused so much trouble even before the first rally in the Lusail Sports Arena in Doha that it will be difficult to clear up.
On the one hand, there is the resentment of the players. The European stars in particular fear that the WTT tournaments will rob them of the time to prepare for the Olympics or World Cup and, above all, for the games with their club teams. »The WTT dates are popped in, and the Bundesliga has to see how it lets its games take place around them. That’s not fair, “said European champion Timo Boll in the podcast” Ping, Pong & Prause “of the German Table Tennis Association. “For most players, the main employer is still the club. It is difficult for them to decide: Am I loyal to him or do I want to play the international tournaments and fight for my place in the world rankings? Many feel a bit blackmailed. “
And then there is the annoyance of the associations. Several weeks ago the world association ITTF and its German President Thomas Weikert commissioned an auditing company to shed light on their own subsidiary WTT. The accusation of the German Table Tennis Association in particular: WTT had too much influence over the member associations of the ITTF.
The auditors do not confirm this allegation. “WTT was set up in a legally impeccable manner,” Weikert told the German Press Agency. But now it’s still about restoring trust. As a former Bundesliga player, Weikert is particularly concerned with saving the European leagues: “In Europe, players are primarily developed in clubs. So that it stays that way, a balance has to be found. “
In the middle of this dispute, the German national coach Jörg Roßkopf flew to Qatar with a total of twelve players to participate in the “WTT Contender” from March 3rd to 6th and the “WTT Star Contender” (March 8th to 13th) to participate. The WTT tournaments are divided into five different categories, but the first “Grand Smash” has not even been terminated due to the corona pandemic. Timo Boll and other stars canceled their participation in Doha early.
“We’re giving WTT a chance,” said Rosskopf now. “But there has to be a dialogue with the players, coaches and associations.” His first impression is in any case pretty devastating: the former double world champion called the anti-corona measures at the WTT premiere “very borderline. It almost dreads going into the training hall, everything is so close together. “
The planning of the new tournament series also bothers him. “World Table Tennis” plans to host several tournaments in China before the Summer Olympics. Participating there and adhering to the current Corona regulations would mean for the German national players not being able to train for two weeks in the middle of their immediate preparation for the Olympic Games.
“Scheduling a tournament over ten days and raising a” Grand Smash “to the same level as the World Championships and the Olympic Games: These are tennis conditions,” said Rosskopf. “But we are table tennis. You can’t just “copy and paste”. ”Dpa / nd