CHINA’S Olympic champion Ma Long will once again start as a strong favourite at the ITTF World Tour Qatar Open, where he opens his campaign in the Round of 32 as the top 16 seeds have been given bye.
Ahmed Khalil Al Mohannadi and his El Jaish team-mate Li Ping will lead Qatar’s challenge in the $200,000 prize-money event, which starts on Thursday.
Meanwhile, women’s Olympic champion Ding Ning, who lost to compatriot Liu Shiwen in last year’s final, pulled out due to an ankle injury, which also saw her miss last December’s World Tour Grand Finals in Doha.
Germany’s Timo Boll had also withdrawn from the competition because of a recurring neck injury while a back spasm forced Africa’s highest-ranked player Aruna Quadri to pull out.
The qualification rounds started at the Ali bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena on Tuesday.