Feng Tianwei Was The Biggest Winner At WTT Doha

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Mima Ito walked away from WTT Doha with 40,000 USD in prize money. Ruwen Filus walked away a fan favorite. Dimitrij Ovtcharov notched three signature wins under his belt. So who was Edges and Nets’ top pick for the biggest winner at WTT Doha? Feng Tianwei.

Why? In the grand scheme of things, WTT Contender and Star Contender events matter for basically two reasons only: amassing world ranking points to obtain better seeding at bigger events and using the competition to work out kinks in your game in order to peak at a bigger event. As it is still only March, we can’t take too much stock in how these performances will translate into the Tokyo Olympics in the summer, but the seeding implications are real and lasting.

Although WTT has been unpredictable regarding seeding practices so far, in general the higher your seed is entering the Olympics the better. At the time being, it appears safe to assume that the top eight seeds at the Olympics will be seeded appropriately as usual.

With that in mind, let us revisit the world ranking system, after which it will become apparent why Feng was the biggest winner from WTT Doha.

The World Ranking System

Each player wins a certain amount of ranking points at every tournament depending on how well they did and how prestigious the tournament was. For WTT Contender, the ranking point distribution is 400 points for the champion, 280 for the finalist, 140 for the semi-finalists, 70 for the quarter-finalists, 35 for losing in the round of 16, and 4 for losing in the round of 32. For WTT Star Contender, those numbers are 600, 420, 210, 105, 55, and 25 respectively. 5 points are also awarded for losing in the round of 64 in WTT Star Contender.

Under normal circumstances, a player’s world ranking point total is computed by summing up the points won over his or her best eight performances over the last twelve months. However, since there has been a hiatus in play due to the pandemic, the world ranking system is slightly different at the moment.

Each player has a certain number of world ranking points from 2020 that roll over into 2021. These world ranking points are slowly decaying until the end of the year, at which point they will completely expire. At the time of this writing (mid-March), they have decayed to 70% of their original value. By the Tokyo Olympics, they will have decayed to 40% of their original value. Your world ranking points are determined by adding up the points you have earned in 2021 with your decaying points from 2020.

For example, if you had 10,000 world ranking points in 2020 and earned 1,000 ranking points in 2021, then you would have 10,000*0.7 + 1,000 = 8,000 world ranking points now and 10,000*0.4+1,000=5,000 world ranking points by the time the Tokyo Olympics roll around.

Although Edges and Nets has previously emphasized the April world rankings in our previews, the ranking list that really matters is the one used at the Olympics. Thus, in all our world ranking lists today and in the future, unless otherwise specified we will decay the 2020 world ranking points down to a factor of 0.4. This makes our rankings slightly different from the official ones posted by ITTF/WTT, but our world rankings will be slightly more relevant.

With that in mind, let us look at the current state of the projected top ten seeds at the Tokyo Olympics, from which we can see who was a winner and who blew some major opportunities at WTT Doha.

Women’s Singles Winners and Losers

We look at the rankings of the projected top ten seeds at the women’s singles event in the Tokyo Olympics. Since China has not yet announced who will play, we will look at both Sun Yingsha and Liu Shiwen on our rankings list. Wang Manyu, Zhu Yuling, and Ding Ning will be in a situation between Sun and Liu. That being said, China could likely not care less about Olympic seeding.

Although Edges and Nets was unable to obtain formal verification of this rule, based on our understanding the Olympics guarantee that two players from the same country will not meet until the finals. (Update: A commenter has pointed out that this may not necessarily be the case this year). Hence, since almost everyone would favor a top Chinese player over even Mima Ito, even if Liu Shiwen drops to ninth in the world, she will still be the de facto second seed.

Olympic SeedPlayer2020 Decayed PointsWTT Doha Contender PointsWTT Doha Star Contender PointsTotal Points
1Chen Meng7900007900
2Mima Ito63324006007332
3Sun Yingsha6560006560
3Liu Shiwen4890004890
4Cheng I-Ching46844554743
5Feng Tianwei423244204656
6Kasumi Ishikawa444035554530
7Jeon Jihee3656702103936
8Doo Hoi Kem3744003744
9Adriana Diaz353041053639
10Sofia Polcanova3584003584
Women’s Singles Projected World Rankings for Olympic seeding

Because China effectively has the top two seeds even though Ito is the second seed in name, the race for the top three seeds is not particularly interesting. However, the fourth seed is highly valuable as it guarantees a path to the semi-finals without having to play Ito or a Chinese player. The eighth seed is similarly coveted since it guarantees a spot in the quarter-finals without having to play Ito or a Chinese player.

Hence, Feng Tianwei is clearly the biggest winner coming out of WTT Doha. Going into Doha, Feng only had a puncher’s chance at the Olympic fourth seed. It looked like that chance had evaporated after Feng suffered a first-round exit in WTT Contender. However, Ishikawa and Cheng extended Feng a lifeline by each suffering early exits in both the WTT Contender and WTT Star Contender events.

Feng seized on this lifeline with a run to the WTT Star Contender finals that included a win over the massively underrated Hina Hayata, who also happened to help Feng out by defeating Ishikawa in WTT Contender and Cheng in WTT Star Contender. Feng has now passed Ishikawa outright on the projected Olympic seedings, and all Feng needs in the next WTT event (an event in China appears to be in the works) is either a major upset on her side or another collapse by Cheng in order for Feng to take complete control of the Olympic fourth seed.

As Feng is the biggest winner, by extension the biggest losers in the women’s singles events at WTT Doha are Ishikawa and Cheng. They each blew a chance to take full control of the fourth seed and allowed Feng to crash what should have been a two-way race.

Elsewhere in the ranking list, Jeon Jihee came out a minor winner and gave herself some breathing room to maintain a top-eight seed by for the most part playing to her seeding and avoiding losses to lower-ranked players. Although Adriana Diaz moved up on the rankings list following WTT Doha, it can be argued that she came out a minor loser at this tournament. Adriana Diaz had a chance to take advantage of Doo Hoi Kem’s absence and put herself in position to join the top eight seeds in Tokyo, but she squandered that chance by losing in the first round at WTT Contender.

Men’s Singles Winners and Losers

We now look at the top ten seeds in the Olympic men’s singles events. China has not yet announced who will play, but regardless of their selection the top two seeds at the Olympics are almost certainly going to be some combination of Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and Xu Xin.

Olympic SeedPlayer2020 Decayed PointsWTT Doha Contender PointsWTT Doha Star Contender PointsTotal Points
1-2Fan Zhendong7396007396
1-2Xu Xin6904006904
1-2Ma Long6808006808
3Tomokazu Harimoto51961406005936
4Lin Yun-Ju48602802105350
5Hugo Calderano492670555051
6Dimitrij Ovtcharov42264002104836
7Mattias Falck46787054753
8Timo Boll4274004274
9Jang Woojin4234054239
10Liam Pitchford3884453893
Men’s Singles Projected World Rankings for Olympic Seeding

Update: A previous version of this post had incorrect ranking points added to Falck and Jang. This error has been corrected.

In the men’s event, there is no clear massive winner like Feng Tianwei. Instead, the biggest winner of the men’s singles event by default is Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

While Ovtcharov walked away with the WTT Contender title and appears to be quite happy that he has re-joined the top ten in the world rankings, from an Olympic seeding perspective not much has changed. In our tournament preview, we expected that a baseline level of play would be enough for Ovtcharov to take control of a top-eight seed in Tokyo and join the top ten in the world rankings list. Although Ovtcharov outperformed expectations and is now projected to pass a disappointing Mattias Falck, he is still firmly entrenched in the 5-8 spot in the Olympics as expected.

That being said, all Ovtcharov needs is for Lin and Calderano to pull a page out of Cheng and Ishikawa’s book in the next WTT event, and he may just be able to steal the fourth seed in Tokyo. However, Ovtcharov is still in a worse position than Feng was entering Doha since the next WTT event is likely to be in China. Even if only two Chinese players play, the odds of Ovtcharov pulling off a surprise finals run in China like Feng did in Doha drop astronomically.

Lin Yun-Ju is a minor winner considering that he passed Calderano for the Olympic fourth seed. However, Lin shouldn’t be feeling too victorious since with his losses to Ovtcharov and Filus, he blew a chance to really put some distance between him and Calderano.

The two major losers in the men’s singles events were Hugo Calderano and Jang Woojin. Calderano lost control of the Olympic fourth seed with a quarter-final loss to Simon Gauzy in WTT Contender and threw away his chance to take it back with a missed serve against Darko Jorgic at match point in the WTT Star Contender round of 16.

Going into the tournament, Jang appeared to be a slam dunk to pass Timo Boll in the world rankings and put himself in position to take the eighth seed in Tokyo. However, Jang was unable to notch even a single win and now finds himself still stuck as a projected ninth seed in Tokyo.

In summary, Edges and Nets’ final picks for winners and losers at WTT Doha are:

  • Major Winner: Feng Tianwei
  • Minor Winners: Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Lin Yun-Ju, and Jeon Jihee
  • Minor Loser: Adriana Diaz
  • Major Losers: Kasumi Ishikawa, Cheng I-Ching, Hugo Calderano and Jang Woojin

Our next blog post will be posted on Wednesday, March 24. Update: The release of the next post has been delayed by up to a couple days.

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5 comments

  • I want to commend you once again for the very comprehensive analysis on the Olympic Seeding Implications of the Doha events. As always, I have enjoyed reading your articles. I just want to point out 2 aspects of your article that you may want to double-check.

    The first is with regard to your understanding that the Olympics guarantees that two players from the same country will always be drawn into opposite halves (Separation by Association rule). While it is true that the previous Olympics have abided by this rule, there is a possibility that such may not be the case in the 2020 Olympics. This is mainly due to a proposition 21 passed by the ITTF Board of Directors in its 2019 BOD meeting. It was also discussed on the TTD forum and majority seem to agree that the amendment means that the Separation by Association rule only applies in preliminary rounds but not in further rounds such as the Olympic finals. Here is a link to the thread discussion. https://www.tabletennisdaily.com/forum/showthread.php?22527-Road-to-Tokyo-2020-Chinese-TT-Team&p=304938#post304938

    Here is the proposal quoted:

    Olympic Competition
    “4.5.2.3. Players of the same Association shall be separated according to 3.6.3.1 and 3.6.3.3 3.6.3.4 and 3.6.3.5 only in preliminary rounds but not in further rounds.”

    In the document, this was cited as the rationale for the amendment:
    “Rationale: The ITTF World Ranking should be the main criteria for Olympic Draws.”

    See page 6 of this document under proposition 21: https://www.ittf.com/wpcontent/uploads/2019/03/Propositions_and_Resolutions_to_2019_BoD.pdf

    I don’t have a definite answer yet on whether the amendment to the ITTF handbook means that the upcoming 2020 Olympics has abolished the separation by association rule, and we should wait for a clarification from ITTF. However, if the rationale for the amendment was to make the Olympic draws mainly based on ITTF World Ranking, then it makes sense to do away with separation by association for the Olympic Games.

    Second, there seems to be a mistake in the number of points you have given to Falck, Jang Woojin, and Pitchford for the WTT Star Contenders event. They actually only earned 5 points rather than 25 points despite losing in the R32. The reason for this is section 3.2 of the Table Tennis World Ranking Regulation. You can see this on page 7 of this document https://www.ittf.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2021-ITTF-Table-Tennis-World-Ranking-Regulation-20210120.pdf

    Section 3.2 provides: “players or pairs having one or more consecutive byes in the Main Draw, and then losing in the next round, shall be awarded points for losing the round where they had the first bye.

    Because Falck, Jang Woojin, and Pitchford had byes in the R64 and lost in the next round, which is the R32, the points they get are that of losing in the R64, which is only 5 WR points. This is also true on the women’s side as players like Lily Zhang and Britt Eerland who were seeded players and got byes in the R64 only got 5 WR points in the WTT Star Contenders event since they lost in the R32. You can check the rankings page on the ITTF or WTT website and see that the WR calculations are consistent with this principle. For example, Jang Woojin has 70% Dec. 2020 points of 7410 and now his current WR points is only 7415, which means he only got 5 points from the Star Contenders event.

    Aside from these aspects, I agree with everything else written in your article. Thank you once again for all your hard work in making these articles and am looking forward to your future posts!

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