The 2017 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour is due to conclude this week with the Swedish Open as some of the world’s top players look to secure their place at next month’s Grand Finals.
By competing in Stockholm, China’s Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin, the respective top two seeds, will meet the Grand Finals requirement of a minimum five tournament appearances on the 2017 ITTF World Tour.
Fan, who yesterday suffered a semi-final defeat to home favourite Dimitrij Ovtcharov at the ITTF German Open in Magdeburg, has reached the men’s singles final in Sweden's capital on three occasions.
He was beaten by compatriot Yan An in the 2013 final, but defeated fellow countryman Fang Bo in 2014 and Xu in 2015.
With his appearance in Stockholm, seventh seed Fang will also complete the five-tournament criteria to be eligible for a Grand Finals invitation.
For Yan, the number 10 seed, the ITTF Swedish Open will be only his fourth outing of the year.
Success for Fan this year will make him the joint most successful male player in the history of the Swedish Open, which has been a part of the ITTF World Tour since its inception in 1996.
The only other player to have won the tournament three times is his now-retired compatriot Wang Liqin.
Next in line to Fan and Xu in this year’s seedings is Japan’s Koki Niwa, who will be making his ninth appearance of 2017.
He is followed by China’s Lin Gaoyuan, Chinese Taipei’s Wong Chun Ting and fellow Japanese Kenta Matsudaira.
All have passed the qualification mark.
Completing the top-eight seeds is Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan, who will be making his seventh appearance and is one of only two players on duty to have won the men’s singles title at the Grand Finals.
Chuang won in 2002 when Stockholm hosted the prestigious event.
The other winner is Xu, who emerged successful in 2012 in Chinese city Hangzhou and in early 2014 in Dubai.
Main draw play at the Eriksdalshallen sport complex is due to begin on Thursday (November 16).
It will be preceded by qualification, which begins today at the Skanstullshallen.
The 2017 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals are due to take place in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana from December 14 to 17.
In the women’s singles event, China’s Ding Ning is the top seed as she aims to win the Swedish Open for the first time in her career and regain first place in the world rankings.
Ding relinquished her number one ranking at the start of this month, ending a 13-month spell at the top of the game.
She was replaced by team-mate Zhu Yuling and having not competed internationally since triumphing at the China Open in Chengdu in June, her name no longer appears on the world rankings.
The absence means that Ding, whose most recent competitive appearance saw her triumph at the National Games of China in Tianjin in September, cannot qualify for the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Chengdu is her only other outing on this year’s ITTF World Tour and she will not be have met the mandatory five-tournament appearance criteria.