The ITTF has announced 17 Challenge Series events for the 2019 season, at least one on every continent, which is an increase from nine events in 2018.
The 17 events, includes nine cities that have never hosted a Challenge Series event and will be split into two tiers for the first time, with the top tier being called Challenge Plus which offers more prize money, more world ranking points, better playing conditions and TV production.
The Challenge Series is the Tour below the premier ITTF World Tour, with its goal of providing players from around the world valuable playing opportunities to get the experience and world ranking points to take the next step to play ITTF World Tour events.
ITTF CEO Steve DAINTON stated: “The increased amount of ITTF Challenge Series events shows the increased interested in organizing table tennis events and the proven success of the change of our world ranking at the start of 2018. These 17 events added to our 13 ITTF World Tour events means that we have 30 tour events in 2019, which provides our players with immense value and fits in with the ITTF’s strategy of having a fully professionally run a global tour by 2021.”
North Korea has been rewarded for its exceptionally strong Challenge Series events over the past few years, being allocated a Challenge Plus event alongside Oman, Portugal, Nigeria, Paraguay and Canada.
Mexico is one of the new names in the second tier of events together with fellow newcomers Morocco, Turkey, Serbia and Indonesia. Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, Thailand, Poland and Belarus all successfully retain their status as Challenge Series hosts for 2019.
ITTF Head of World Cup & Challenge Series Zena SIM added: “It is great seeing the immense interest from so many countries around the world to host a Challenge Series event. Challenge Series events are a perfect platform for new hosts to organize a world-class event, and a good platform for new players to get their first experience playing at the international level.