Whoever said everything has to be bigger in Texas must never have seen a table tennis match.
But then, while the sport may not be bigger in the actual sense than, well, pretty much every sport out there, it certainly looms large in terms of talent and entertainment.
And it's coming to Fort Worth with some of the top table tennis talent on the planet. Fort Worth is hosting this year's 2019 U.S. Open Championship for USA Table Tennis at the Fort Worth Convention Center beginning Tuesday (Dec. 17) and running through Dec. 21.
By the way, there is a big difference between ping pong and table tennis. The former is what we play in the garage when we spend more time looking for the ball than hitting it. The latter is what some folks will be playing very soon in our Fort Worth Convention Center, making our jaw drop much more frequently than the little ball they're whacking back and forth at lightning speed.
Texas Wesleyan University has been one of the nation's powerhouses in table tennis throughout the years with numerous individual and team national championships. Their success and reputation might very well have lended itself to this tournament coming here.
"Having the international table tennis event in the Fort Worth is an amazing opportunity for city residents to see and learn more about this wonderful and safe sport," Texas Wesleyan Table Tennis Coach Jasna Rather said.
The event will feature over 80 events on 80 tables. Players will range in age from 6 to about 90. There will be Olympians and Paralympians competing. It is a family friendly tournament with multiple table tennis vendors and over 730 athletes to watch.
Several of the world’s top players will be in attendance, providing a preview of what to expect in the 2020 Olympics.
These folks are the Serena Williams and Roger Federers of their game, real life Forrest Gumps - the table tennis version, that is. And though the tables are much smaller than a regular tennis court, the way they play is anything but small.
"The Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau did a great job in securing the tournament, and going above and beyond to make the event great," Rather said.
What sort of company is Fort Worth in by hosting this tournament? Seamaster table tennis championships are held around the world in locations such as Qatar, Doha, Budapest, Hungary, Hong Kong, China and Stockholm, Sweden.
In other words, some pretty cool places, which, of course, Fort Worth itself is.
“We are excited about the opportunity to work with USA Table Tennis to create a championship experience for athletes and fans while showcasing all Fort Worth has to offer,” said Jason Sands, director of sports marketing at Visit Fort Worth and Fort Worth Sports. “Table tennis competitors and their fans are accustomed to visiting world-class cities and we are confident they will feel right at home in Fort Worth.”
Fort Worth was awarded the title of host after a highly competitive bidding process. The championships are expected to book more than 3,000 rooms at downtown hotels and equate to more than $1.2 million in direct spending.
“We are delighted to bring the 2019 US Open to Fort Worth," said Virginia Sung, chief executive officer for USA Table Tennis. "It is important for us to create a life experience beyond the competition, and we know Fort Worth provides us with such a rich culture and great hospitality.”
Technically, it's miniature tennis. Somehow, though, I think I'd have a much better chance at beating Tiger Woods in mini-golf than I would have of returning even one shot against the likes of Jan-Ove Waldner, Liu Guoliang, Kong Linghui, Zhang Jike, or Ma Long.
Those, by the way, are the only five table tennis players ever to win the grand slam in that sport.