Durban will become the first African city to host the World Table Tennis Championships since Cairo in 1939 when action begins tomorrow ©ITTF

Chinese players are set to defend their titles in four of the five events at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Table Tennis Championships Finals, starting in Durban from tomorrow.

This is set to mark the first time the event has been staged on the African continent since it was staged in the Egyptian capital Cairo in 1939.

Players from China make up four of the top five seeds in the men's singles and all five of the highest ranked in the women's singles at the Durban International Convention Centre in the South African city.

Olympic silver medallist Fan Zhendong is the defending men's singles champion, and the top seed is the only player with a bye through to the second round, where he is due to face Iran's Amir Hossein Hodaei or Greece's Panagiotis Gionis.

He could be in line for a repeat of the 2021 final against Truls Möregårdh at the quarter-final stage, with the Swedish seventh seed starting against Eric Jouti of Brazil.

Wang Chuqin has won doubles and team golds at ITTF World Championships, and the second seed is set to start his search for a maiden singles crown against Ocean Belrose of Tahiti.

He could face compatriot Ma Long if both players' tournaments go to plan, the back-to-back Olympic champion seeded third and starting against Gastón Alto of Argentina.

Tomokazu Harimoto is the highest ranked player from outside of China in the men's singles draw, the Japanese fourth seed beginning against Singapore's Clarence Chew.

In the women's singles, Sun Yingsha was beaten in the Olympic and World Championships final in 2021, but has risen to number one in the world.

She and the defending champion Wang Manyu have been given byes through to the second round.

Wang is in line for a possible semi-final against Olympic champion Chen Meng, the third seed starting against Egypt's Yousra Abdel Razek, although the second seed is on a collision course with compatriot and fifth seed Chen Xingtong in the quarter-finals.

Chinese players have won the singles titles at every World Championships since 2005.

Wang and Sun are set to play together seeking a third consecutive women's doubles world title.

Another final against second seeds Mima Ito and Hina Hayata of Japan is possible, with the 2019 and 2021 runners-up in the opposite half of the draw.

Sun is also defending the mixed doubles gold with Wang Chuqin, with their main challenge likely to come from second seeds and beaten 2021 finalists Harimoto and Hayata of Japan.

Swedish pair Mattias Falck and Kristian Karlsson took the men's doubles crown in Houston 18 months ago, but are only seeded fourth in Durban.

They face a possible semi-final against China's top seeds Wang Chuqin and Fan.

China's Wang Manyu, left, and Sun Yingsha, right, are seeking a third consecutive women's doubles world title, and both likely contenders for the singles gold ©Getty Images
China's Wang Manyu, left, and Sun Yingsha, right, are seeking a third consecutive women's doubles world title, and both likely contenders for the singles gold ©Getty Images

Singles round of 128 and doubles round of 64 action is scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday (May 21), with the competition progressing to the mixed doubles final on Friday (May 28), men's and women's doubles deciders next Saturday (May 27) and the singles finals the following day.

The ITTF lifted a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian players after the International Olympic Committee updated its recommendations at the end of March, but this came too late to allow eligible athletes to participate in Durban.