2017 kick starts a brand new ITTF World Tour circuit. Thirteen championships, three continents and thirteen countries will host the events where the best table tennis players in the world will congregate.
Players will compete throughout the year to have their names in the 2017 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals draw, which has lavish prizes for the best of the best in the circuit.
How much money can the best players in the circuit make in a year? How does table tennis compare to other tournament-based sports? All this and much more in the following paragraphs!
The World Tour
Categories and locations
The format this year is made up of two categories: Platinum Events and World Tour Events. The ITTF Challenger Series still remains, but this time it’s separate from the major categories, with 11 events and some of them overlapping each other. We will focus only on the two main categories, but more information about the 2017 ITTF Challenger Series can be found here.
The following map shows the 12 locations for the Platinum and World Tour categories:
The competition starts in less than 2 weeks on the 19th of January in Budapest, Hungary, and finishes on the 19th of November in Stockholm, Sweden. These ten months will require all the players to be consistent, and to avoid injury in order to participate, and have chances to win in their desired tournaments.
The event distribution throughout 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 in this major category will take place, in Japan, China and Australia.
If you don’t want to miss any of the upcoming tournaments, 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’s Singles
- Women’s Singles
- Men’s Doubles
- Women’s Doubles
In addition, all events except Austria will have:
- U21 Men’s Singles
- U21 Women’s Singles
In order to access the final draw, there will be a qualification stage which will differ depending on the location. China, Japan and South Korea will have a knock-out stage, while the rest of countries will have groups of three or four players.
Each match will be played to the best of 7 games for singles competitions and 5 games for doubles and U21.
The difference between the Platinum and World Tour categories: the number of points allocated for the ITTF World Tour Standings that allow the players to qualify for the aforementioned ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
The following 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 double to more than three times as many points in the Platinum events. However, there is a catch: 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 definitely incentivise mid-level players to sign up to more events and obtain points more easily to qualify for the grand finals.
Money talks, especially when you have to travel thousands of kilometres 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 they need some time for training, of course. This fact forces players to carefully plan the whole year. This is when the prizes in each tournament really matter, especially for the players with higher chances of ending in the top positions.
Unfortunately for the players, the 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 their dedicated prize money:
Platinum events in Australia and China are 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, one which will, without a doubt. motivate the players to head to Oceania. The singles champions in both men’s and women’s 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 just one week of resting time. Stay tuned for the end of June, as we are likely to enjoy a couple of amazing tournaments with most of the top ranked players in the world taking part.
Six events offer prizes between $120,000 and $150,000. These are: Qatar, Austria, Japan and Germany in the Platinum category plus India and South Korea in the World Tour category. Singles/doubles prizes range from $18,000/$5,000 in Qatar to $15,000/$4,000 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 in Sweden singles and doubles events have prizes from $3,500 to $3,000.
2017 ITTF Grand Finals
Last but not least, the 2017 ITTF Grand Finals, still without a definite 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 the 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. Two victories out of the five finals he played, and a single upset in semi-finals, 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 manages to put in a similar performance this year, he would earn the highest amount on the circuit, 7% of the total prize money the 2017 ITTF World Tour offers.
The best female player in the world will make more money than Ma Long if she is not as unlucky as last year, when she 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, or maybe 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 injuries like last year, when she withdrew from the 2016 ITTF Grand Finals.
Considering the 2016 ITTF Grand Finals, the Japanese player participated in 12 events, including a couple of Challenge categories. Without having an extraordinary performance, the high number of appearances would see 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 only 5 Super tournaments, the minimum required to qualify for the Grand Finals.
Very consistent performance though, reaching the quarter-finals in 4 of the tournaments and a runner-up position in Germany, where he could not defeat Ma Long. If he repeats these results, the amount will rise to almost $22,000.
Comparison to other sports
Let’s take a look at 2016’s tennis and golf prize-money earnings:
According to Forbes, the best tennis players of the ATP and WTA circuits earned millionaire totals last year.
The men’s 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.
The PGA circuit earnings list has the American golfer Dustin Johnson at the top with $9.3 million, with Jason Day following him earning $8 million and Adam Scott with $4.6 million.
The LPGA circuit, where the best female 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
The 2017 ITTF World Tour has much lower money prizes compared to tennis and golf. The total amount for this year, $2,179,000, is even less than the amount some individual players make in the other sports.
However, it is not a fair comparison. Table tennis has several other income sources, as players do not only focus on the circuit but in other national and continental leagues, too. For 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 the 2013 Chinese Super League was $250,000, which is far more than the 2017 World Tour estimated earnings.