Faster, higher, stronger, that may apply to athletes with Olympic ambitions.

For sports associations and their marketers, on the other hand, the motto is: more spectacle, more attention, more money.

Football is arguing about a European Super League and a World Cup every two years, and thoughts about play-off games in the Bundesliga are also buzzing through the minds of officials.

Thomas Klemm

sports editor.

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Other sports have already innovated with less loud background noise than football, for example tennis, where team competitions have been remodeled or invented.

Badminton, darts and volleyball have long tried to reposition themselves in the fight for public attention.

Standing still is a step backwards, is the general feeling that the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and its economic and marketing subsidiary WTT are now trying to heed.

And how!

A bit of reform here and there wasn't enough for the top table tennis masters, they wanted the revolution.

So, together with external consultants and marketers, they have concocted a complete series of tournaments that is spectacular and is intended to leverage all the potential in table tennis, as it is called in managerial German.

The result is WTT, to a certain extent as a replacement for the previous World Tour.

The association is thus oriented towards professional tennis and its lucrative series for men (ATP) and women (WTA) plus the four majors.

The first "Grand Smash" starts this Friday in Singapore, not only based on the name of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments.

"A dream comes true," said ITTF CEO Steve Dainton.

The planned four Grand Smash tournaments would become "flag events", the entire WTT series could release "billions of dollars" in table tennis: "We are only scratching the surface of our business model," says Australian Dainton.

A devaluation for the Olympics and the World Cup?

And what is behind the promises?

At first glance, a lot of good things.

The 64 women and men who start in the main field get 5000 dollars and some world ranking points from the start.

There is already 10,000 dollars for reaching the second round, the respective individual winners ultimately even get 100,000 dollars (equivalent to around 88,000 euros) and 2000 world ranking points, as many as previously only at world championships and Olympic Games.

Overall, the first highlight of this year's tournament season is endowed with an incredible two million dollars (1.75 million euros) for table tennis.

World champions, Olympic champions and the other stars dutifully and almost all of them traveled to Singapore.

Most are friendly about the new stage that is being prepared for them, such as the chic show court in the OCBC Arena.

Timo Boll, who turned 41 during the journey, seems rather calm.

"I assume that at the beginning it won't feel very different from a normal tournament," says the top performer among the eleven German participants.

The fact that there is more prize money "does not make up the spirit and the prestige, it will take years to develop".

Despite all the early praise they gave themselves, the table tennis officials themselves are aware that success will not come overnight.

Even the start of the WTT, originally planned for 2021 and postponed due to the corona pandemic, was bumpy.

The association argued about WTT because some feared the devaluation of the World Cup and Olympics.

In addition, this year's planning seems more improvised than groundbreaking.

Singapore was announced as the venue just five weeks ago, and who knows where the other three Grand Smash tournaments will be held.

There is also a muddle of appointments for national leagues and players.

The ITTF postponed the World Team Championship by half a year from April, the Bundesliga and their ilk can now see how they cope with it.

This March, the league has to be suspended, also because of two tournaments in Doha that follow Singapore, but it will continue in April.

So it's no wonder that many players are not really happy despite the considerable prize money.

The best have to compete in mandatory WTT tournaments, otherwise they face deductions.

But they don't know where their journeys will take them from May onwards.

Complicating matters further, some tournament entry codes seem like a closed one.

Most of them will (have to) continue to earn most of their money by playing for clubs and taking salaries;

unlike in professional tennis, where at least the top 100 can live well from the prize money won in tournaments.

"A lot has to happen so that 100 players can live solely from the tour alone," says Timo Boll.

Nevertheless, one should give the WTT and its tournaments in different categories a chance.

Boll hopes "that they will also keep an eye on the European market, league operations and their players."

At the moment it looks as if those responsible for KTT are primarily looking towards Asia.

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