China is set to stage three ITTF events in November ©ITTF

Three International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) events are set to be staged in China as the world’s top players prepare for their long-awaited return to action in November.

The ITTF rankings have been frozen since April, when all competitions were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players are now set to have a chance to climb the standings before the end of 2020, with three events to be staged in a month.

The November schedule features the Uncle Pop 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup, Liebherr 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup and the 2020 ITTF Finals.

With China playing host as the ITTF takes a "regional approach" to tournaments restarting, the Women’s and Men’s World Cup events in Bangkok in Thailand and Düsseldorf in Germany will no longer take place.

The announcement of top-level table tennis’ return comes after the ITTF issued guidelines with mandatory requirements for tournaments to follow, plus other recommendations.

The ITTF is understood to be working with the Chinese Table Tennis Association to ensure safety measures are in place to protect athletes, coaches, officials and supporting staff within a bubble.

ITTF President Thomas Weikert said ensuring a safe return to international table tennis had been the "utmost priority ever since the pandemic broke out".

"I am delighted that, with the fantastic support and hard work carried out by everyone at the ITTF over several months, we have managed to get events back up and running before the end of 2020," Weikert said.

CTTA President Liu Guoliang described the ITTF’s decision to stage the tournaments in China as "very significant" for the country after an "extremely challenging year" for the sport.

"CTTA is honoured to be able to help bring international table tennis tournaments back into action," Liu said.

"Thanks to many months of hard work carried out by the ITTF and CTTA, we are able to come out from the darkness and to celebrate our return to the table.

"This is a moment of immense joy for all members of the international table tennis family.

"We are working closely under the guidance and in cooperation with relevant authorities in China and doing everything possible to make the events a resounding success and to keep the players safe at the same time."

Liu was recently announced as chair of the World Table Tennis (WTT) Council.

WTT is the ITTF's new commercial vehicle.

The ITTF rankings have been frozen since April due to the COVID-19 pandemic ©Getty Images
The ITTF rankings have been frozen since April due to the COVID-19 pandemic ©Getty Images

The World Cups will feature 20 female and 20 male athletes, including the world champion, qualified players from all completed continental events in Africa, Europe and the Americas, and players selected by world ranking from Asia and Oceania.

Meanwhile, the top 16 world-ranked male and female players are expected to lock horns in men’s and women’s singles competitions at the ITTF Finals.

ITTF chief executive Steve Dainton added: "After many months away from the table, it is extremely important for us to get international table tennis events back running again.

"We extend our thanks to China and CTTA President, Liu Guoliang, for helping us to make this happen.

"We are also very grateful to our friends in Thailand and especially Germany, who were committed to hosting the Women’s and Men’s World Cups respectively and have been fully cooperative in handing them to China given the very tough circumstances.

"We therefore thank them for all their hard work and dedication to the cause during this difficult period."