Injury has forced reigning world champion Liu Shiwen to withdraw from the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Qatar Open in Doha, where competition is due to begin tomorrow.
The Chinese player is one of the most successful in the history of the Qatar Open, which is an ITTF World Tour Platinum event.
She has won the women’s singles title on three occasions, in 2011, 2016 and 2018, and was the runner-up last year as well as in 2010 and in 2013.
The only player who has more wins at the event is now retired colleague, Zhang Yining, who triumphed four times, in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Liu is among a number of notable names that have cancelled their entries for the six-day event at Aspire Dome.
In the men’s singles, Germany’s Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov have withdrawn, as has the in-form German Qiu Dang, the winner at last month's ITTF Challenge Plus Portugal Open.
Furthermore, owing to the current quarantine situation in Qatar as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, players from South Korea and the whole of the Chinese Taipei team, with the exception of Chuang Chih-yuan, have been forced to pull out.
The effect in the men’s singles entry is that Japan’s Jun Mizutani, Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, Frenchman Simon Gauzy and England’s Liam Pitchford now enter the seeding at 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th respectively.
Japan’s Hitomi Sato and China’s He Zhuojia now appear in women’s singles seeding at 14th and 15th respectively.
China’s Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin are the top two men’s singles seeds, while compatriot Ma Long, the defending champion, is the third seed.
In the women’s singles, China’s Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha are the top two seeds with Japan’s Mima Ito third and Wang Manyu, who beat Liu in last year’s all-Chinese final, fourth.
The first stage of competition is scheduled to take place tomorrow and on Wednesday (March 4) before the main draw is held from Thursday (March 5) to Sunday (March 8).