2017 kick starts a brand new ITTF World Tour circuit. 13 championships, 3 continents and 13 countries will host the events that will congregate the best table tennis players of the world.
Players will compete during the whole year to have their names in the 2017 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals draw, which has lush prizes for the best of the best of the circuit.
How much money can the best players of the circuit make in a year? How far is table tennis from other tournament-based sports? All about this and much more to come in the following lines!
The World Tour
Categories and locations
The format for this year includes 2 categories: Platinum Events and World Tour Events. ITTF Challenger Series category still remains, but this time separated from the major categories, with 11 events and some of event overlapping between each other. We will focus only on the two main categories, but more information about 2017 ITTF Challenger Series can be found here.
Next map shows the 12 locations that the Platinum and World Tour categories have:
The competition starts in less than 2 weeks, the 19th of January, in Budapest, Hungary, and finishes the 19th of November in Stockholm, Sweden. These 10 months will require all the players to have consistency and to avoid injury in order to participate, and have winning chances, in their desired tournaments.
The events distribution along the year:
If we only consider the Platinum Events, which will be the target for all the top players, the busiest period of the year will be from mid-June to the beginning of July. In only 22 days, 3 out of the 6 events composing the major category will be taking place in Japan, China and Australia.
If you do not want to miss any of the tournaments to come, please see the calendar below by ZoomTT. You can easily add it to your Gmail account, clicking on the bottom-right + button, and set notifications for all the events you are interested in.
All events will have these draws:
- Men Singles
- Women Singles
- Men Doubles
- Women Doubles
Moreover, all events except Austria will have:
- U21 Men Singles
- U21 Women Singles
In order to access the final draw, there will be a qualification stage that will differ depending on the location. China, Japan and Korea Republic will have a knock-out stage, while the rest of countries will have groups of 3 or 4 players.
Each match will be played best of 7 games for Singles competitions and 5 games for Doubles and U21.
The difference between Platinum and World Tour categories: the amount of points allocated for the ITTF World Tour Standings, that allow the players to qualify for the aforementioned ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Next chart shows the points distribution in all categories:
The most noticeable thing is the gap between Platinum and World Tour events for Senior Singles competitions. Players can gather from twice to more than three times as many points in the Platinum events. However, a trick rule hides behind: players must compete in at least 5 Singles, 4 doubles and 4 U21 events to qualify for the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Regarding the rest of the playing categories, Doubles and U21 competitions have a much narrower difference, which will for sure incentivise mid-level players to sign up at more events and obtain points more easily to qualify for the Grand Finals.
Money talks, especially when you have to travel thousands of kilometers around the globe to play a few matches. Moreover, the list of events for professional players extends indefinitely: national leagues, European Champions League, ETTU Cup, Continental Championships, World Championships… and some time for training, of course. This fact makes players carefully plan the whole year. And this is when the prizes in each tournament really matter, specially for the players with higher chances of ending in the top positions.
Unfortunately for the players, 2017 ITTF World Tour has an annoying characteristic: the prizes differ in all tournaments, not directly related to the tournament category. We can spot 4 groups of tournaments regarding dedicated prize money:
Platinum events in Australia and China are the place where the prize will totally make it worth the trip, with prizes of $384.000 and $220.000 respectively. A big difference between them though, which will for sure motivate the players to go the Oceanian country. Singles champions in both men and women draws will earn $48.000 in Australia and $25.000 in China, whereas doubles compete for up to $12.000 and $9.000 respectively.
One fun fact: both tournaments are played one after the other with a single week of resting time. Stay tuned for end-June, as we will probably enjoy a couple of amazing tournaments with most of the top ranked players of the World.
6 events offer prizes between $120.000 and $150.000. These are: Qatar, Austria, Japan and Germany in the Platinum category plus India and Korea Republic in the World Tour category. Singles/doubles prizes range from $18.000/$5000 in Qatar to $15.000/$4000 in Japan, Germany, Korea and India.
Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary and Sweden are the lowest profile tournaments of the circuit. Total prizes range from $100.000 in Czech Republic to $70.000 in Hungary and Sweden, whereas singles and doubles events have prizes from $3500 to $3000.
2017 ITTF Grand Finals
Last but not least, 2017 ITTF Grand Finals, still without a determined location, is by far the most profitable tournament. The total prize is $500.000, having $50.000 for singles champions, $10.000 for doubles champions and $2.000 for U21 champions.
Two important facts compared to the rest of tournaments:
- It is the only tournament where U21 draws have prizes.
- Due to the reduced number of players qualifying to compete, all of them get prize money, which starts at $5.000 for singles, $1.500 for doubles and $400 for U21.
Making a living
How much can a professional table tennis player earn only with prizes from the 2017 ITTF World Tour? We will consider 2016 results to make an estimation:
The 6 Super category events (equivalent to the current Platinum category) had Ma Long as the top seeded player. 2 victories out of the 5 finals he played, and a single upset in semifinals , served him well to qualify as #1 player for the 2016 ITTF Grand Finals, where he won the final match against Fan Zhendong.
If he managed to have a similar performance this year, he would earn the biggest amount of the circuit, a 7% of the total prize money the 2017 ITTF World Tour offers.
The best female player of the world will make more money than Ma Long if she is not unlucky like last year, when he had to withdraw from the 2016 ITTF Grand Finals because of an injury.
Ma Long’s reign casts a long shadow. However, Fan Zhendong will shorten the distance, even pass him according to some opinions. More than $100.000 would end up in Fan’s pocket if he is up to the expectations.
The Chinese star will probably improve the estimation if she does not suffer from any injury like last year, when she withdrawed from the 2016 ITTF Grand Finals.
Considering the 2016 ITTF Grand Finals, the Japanese player participated in 12 events, even including a couple of Challenge category. Without having an extraordinary performance, the high amount of appearances would make her earn a considerable amount. We will see if she is able to have such a tight calendar in 2017.
The iconic Belarusian player is already 40 years old. This fact obviously reduced his appearances last year, accounting for 5 Super tournaments, the minimum required to qualify for the Grand Finals.
Very consistent performance though, reaching quarter finals in 4 of the tournaments and a runner-up position in Germany, where he could not defeat Ma Long. If he repeats such results, the amount will go close to $22.000.
Comparison to other sports
Let’s take a look at tennis and golf 2016 money earnings:
According to Forbes, the best tennis players of the ATP and WTA circuits earned millonaire amounts last year.
Mens list is clearly lead by Novak Djokovic, who reached $21.8 million, followed by Andy Murray with $8 million and Roger Federer with $7.8 million.
Regarding the WTA circuit, Serena Williams earned $8.9 million, while Garbiñe Muguruza got $4.6 million.
PGA circuit earnings list has the american golfer Dustin Johnson at the top with $9.3 million, with Jason Day following him having $8 million and Adam Scott with $4.6 million.
LPGA circuit, where best women golfers compete, reports $2.5 million for Ariya Jutanugarn, $2.4 million for Lydia Ko and $1.7 million for Brooke Henderson.
A big gap
2017 ITTF World Tour has much lower prizes compared to tennis and golf. The total amount for this year, $2.179.000, is even less than the amount some make players make in the other sports.
However, it is not a fair comparison. Table tennis has several income sources, as players do not only focus on the circuit but in other National and Continental leagues. As an example, golfer Dustin Johnson participated in 22 events last year, while Ma Long only in 7.
In fact, according to some sources, Ma Long’s salary in 2013 Chinese Super League was $250.000, which is far more than the 2017 World Tour estimated earnings.