Everything you need to know about the 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships

Ma Long and Ding Ning are out to retain their singles titles in Budapest, Hungary.

Olympic champions Ma Long and Ding Ning will be out to defend their world titles at the 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Ma, who is coming off the back of a long absence through injury, is only seeded 11th in the men's singles and could face top-seeded compatriot and world number one Fan Zhendong in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Ding, who is the world's top-ranked woman, has been awarded the first seed in the women's singles. Chen Meng is the number two seed, coming off the back of a big win at the Chinese Marvellous 12 national qualifying championships.

The 2019 edition is the last time the singles and doubles World Championships are being held in their current format, with a new, expanded system set to take effect in 2021.

Preliminary rounds are held on 21 and 22 April 2019, with the men's and women's singles main draws beginning on Tuesday, 23 April. The finals take place across three days: 26 April (mixed doubles), 27 April (women's singles, men's doubles) and 28 April (men's singles, women's doubles).

WATCH: Behind the scenes at “One of the toughest tournaments in the world”

WATCH: Behind the scenes at “One of the toughest tournaments in the world”

Threat to Chinese table tennis dominance

Speaking to Olympic Channel recently, 'the Dragon' Ma Long noted that table tennis is changing.

"The world of table tennis is expanding, and China's dominance won't be like what it once was. But this motivates us even more," he said.

The biggest non-Chinese threats to Ma and Fan in the men's singles draw will come from Japan's fourth-seeded Tomokazu Harimoto, still just 15 years old, and Germany's evergreen 38-year-old Timo Boll, the fifth seed.

However, the draw has pitted Harimoto against Boll in the quarter-finals, if both make it that far, eliminating a sure threat for a medal.

The sixth seed, Lee Sangsu of South Korea, also faces a tough draw in the bottom half of the bracket, with Chinese world number two Xu Xin waiting in the last eight.

Men's singles schedule

21–22 April Preliminary rounds

23 April Round of 128, Round of 64

24 April Round of 32

25 April Round of 16

26 April Quarter-finals

27 April Semi-finals

28 April Gold medal match

Women's singles more clear-cut

Chinese players retain the top four seedings in the women's singles, keeping them apart until at least the semi-finals, with the exception of the country's fifth entrant, 24th seed and Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games champion Sun Yingsha.

Ding has been drawn in the same half of the draw as long-time friend and rival Liu Shiwen, the fourth seed; third seed Wang Manyu could well face Chen in the last four.

The Japanese will be out to play spoiler, with three seeds of their own in the top eight. Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito are the fifth and sixth seeds, and could face Chen and Wang in the quarter-finals; eighth seed 17-year-old Miu Hirano, the Youth Olympic Games silver medallist behind Sun, is in the same quarter as Ding.

Chinese Taipei's Cheng I-Ching is the seventh seed and faces Liu if they make it to the last eight.

Women's singles schedule

21–22 April Preliminary rounds

23 April Round of 128, Round of 64

24 April Round of 32, Round of 16

25 April Quarter-finals

26 April Semi-finals

27 April Gold medal match

Doubles trouble?

Perhaps the biggest question mark for China is how they will get on in the doubles events. Two years ago in Düsseldorf, Germany, Chinese pairs won both the men's and women's doubles, but Japan's Ishikawa and Maharu Yoshimura won the mixed doubles.

The Chinese are clearly out to change that.

Ding Ning and Fan Zhendong, the two singles world number ones, paired up for the event from the preliminary rounds as they are unseeded.

Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin, the other pair representing China, are seeded third.

Defending champions Ishikawa and Yoshimura are seeded second, behind the Hong Kong pair of Doo Hoi Kem and Wong Chun Ting, who were semi-finalists in 2017.

The mixed doubles event will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

There is also potential for a non-Chinese team to win the men's doubles, with China's top-ranked pair only seeded eighth.

With defending champions Fan and Xu not competing this year, the attention will be on Japan's runner-up team from 2017 Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima, the top seeds. Hosts Hungary will also have interest in the event, with Ecseki Nandor and Szudi Adam seeded fifth.

Ma Long does however make a rare doubles appearance, partnering Buenos Aires Youth Olympics singles champion Wang Chuqin in the 18th-seeded pair.

In the women's doubles, Japan, China, and Hong Kong all have two top-seeded pairs, although the defending champions Ding and Liu are not taking part.

Mima Ito and Hiya Hanata are the top seeds and will look to improve on bronze in 2017, while fourth-seeded Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling were silver medallists two years ago.

Doubles schedule

21 April Mixed doubles Preliminary rounds

22 April Men's and women's doubles Preliminary rounds and Round of 64, Mixed doubles Round of 64 and Round of 32

23 April Men's and women's doubles Round of 32

24 April Men's and women's doubles Round of 16, Mixed doubles Round of 16 and Quarter-finals

25 April Men's and women's doubles Quarter-finals, Mixed doubles Semi-finals

26 April Men's doubles Semi-finals, Mixed doubles Gold medal match

27 April Men's doubles Gold medal match, Women's doubles Semi-finals

28 April Women's doubles Gold medal match

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