The T. League is aiming to raise the curtain on its third season in November, chairman Koji Matsushita said Friday.
The pro table tennis circuit had originally planned to open the 2020-21 campaign in September after the Tokyo Olympics, which were due to end Aug. 9.
But with the Summer Games postponed until next year over the COVID-19 pandemic, and the World Team Table Tennis Championships from March 22 to 29 rescheduled for Sept. 27 to Oct. 4 instead, the T. League decided to shift gears and delay its opening day.
"Our theme is that we would like to enrich people's lives through the T. League," Matsushita said in an online news conference Friday. “Once the expansion of this unprecedented virus settles down, we would like to show a world-class game.”
Matsushita said the league hopes to complete 86 contests, including the postseason, as it has done since its inception in 2018. He added the league is hoping to have the finals completed by the end of March or early April.
The 52-year-old chief said the circuit would stick with four teams each in the men's and women's leagues next season and is hoping to expand once the campaign ends.
A detailed schedule will be announced later, as the league continues to monitor the coronavirus situation.
Matsushita, who became Japan’s first pro table tennis player in 1993, hinted the league might open its season in a big, neutral site to draw more attention, just as it did when it kicked off the inaugural 2018-19 season at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan. Matsushita said the venue for the 2020-21 opener is already booked.
While the league may be forced to start either without fans or with a limited number allowed into venues, Matsushita said the T. League hopes to attract more fans than in its first two years. Total attendance was 99,623 (1,186 per game) and 83,385 (993 per game) in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, respectively.
The league also handed out awards for the 2019-20 season on Friday, despite the finals being called off because of the coronavirus.
The teams in first place entering the finals were crowned champions, with men's team Kinoshita Meister Tokyo and women's team Nippon Life Red Elf each winning for the second consecutive year.
Chinese player Hou Yingchao, Kinoshita Meister's 39-year-old veteran, and Red Elf's Sakura Mori, received MVP honors. Hou's 11 wins (against seven losses) were the second-most in men's singles, while Mori led the women's singles competition with 14 wins.