China’s Fan Zhendong and Zhu Yuling will seek to defend their Asian Cup titles when the table tennis tournament begins tomorrow in Yokohama.
The duo won the men’s and women’s singles events respectively at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and Asian Table Tennis Union competition.
As defending champions both players were invited to take part, along with the 10 highest ranked Asian players in the world rankings in January.
Four regional qualification winners also progressed through to the tournament at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium for the second consecutive year.
The 16 players in the men’s and women’s singles draw will be separated into four groups of four, with a round robin format set to take place.
One of the groups will consist of the continental qualifiers who will seek to secure a place in the playoffs, where they will meet the third placed finishers in the other groups.
The playoffs will determine who progresses to the second stage, alongside the winners and runners-up in the three other groups.
The second stage will be a direct knock-out format.
Fan is expected to face competition in the men’s tournament from his compatriot Ma Long, as well as world number three Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan.
The women’s competition could see two-time defending champion Zhu challenged by home favourites Miu Hirano and Kasumi Ishikawa.
Hirano is the reigning Asian champion and last year’s World Championship silver medallist, while Ishikawa lies third in the world rankings.
China have proved the dominant nation in recent years at the Asian Cup event, with their players having won the last 11 men’s singles titles and 10 of the past 11 women’s tournaments.
Singapore’s Feng Tianwei was the last non-Chinese player to win the women’s event, having done so back in 2015.
The top three finishers in the men’s and women’s events will qualify for this year’s ITTF World Cups.