Ashley Stokes eyes Ping Pong championship crown
- Credit: Archant
Willesden’s Ashley Stokes says he can realistically secure his own World Championship of Ping Pong title if he can successfully get out of the group stages.
Barry Hearn’s classic old school sandpaper hardbat tournament returns to Alexandra Palace, Wood Green on Friday evening (January 22 to 24) with 63 players, including Stokes, all gunning to grab the coveted title off defending champion Andrew Baggaley.
Milton Keynes-based Baggaley, 32, scooped the $20,000 top prize after beating Germany’s Alexander Flemming in last year’s final.
Stokes, a silver medallist at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, ended Russia’s ‘Magic’ Maxim Shmyrev three year domination of WCPP in the last four.
He is currently ranked inside the top 50 domestically and coaches at Capital City Academy, qualified for his third straight WCPP after winning the English Open Series in BATTS, Harlow.
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The 26-year-old, whose girlfriend Lithuania’s Egle Adomelyte is also playing in the Matchroom Sport tournament, begins his campaign against Russian Open qualifier Alexey Kokhanyuk, a player he admits he has never heard of.
With the increased number of international ping-pongers participating this week, Stokes believes the unknown quantity, in particular those from China - Zhao Jie, Li Lei, Chen Jie and Yu Ying, will add some extra spice to the tournament.
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Stokes told the Times: “The Chinese been added is very interesting basically. “The word is going round that the tournament will be dominated by those Chinese players but hopefully we don’t want that, so we have to wait and see how really good they are.
“Obviously we don’t want to go down the road of how table tennis is dominated by China every single year.
“But having the qualification does limit that so they can’t have 16 players in they will still have their four spots but even that we don’t want those four in the semi-final really and truly if I am being honest.
“Obviously we would like to have a winner from England like Baggaley done last year but if not hopefully from the home nations or Europe.
“Half the draw or even more are new players which is great so hopefully we will get some more shocks and surprises in this year’s tournament.”
Stokes, meanwhile, will be concentrating on reaching his target during the next three days at Ally Pally: “My realistic aim is to get out of the group stages and then take it one match at a time and do better as I can from the previous years,” he continues.
“But I’m feeling confident that I can reach my target, it will be like winning the world championship!”
Tickets are still available by logging on to http://www.worldchampionshipofpingpong.net/tickets/ or in person at Alexandra Palace Box Office, otherwise catch all the action on Sky Sports 5 from 6pm.