Russian star aims for hat-trick at Alexandra Palace

‘Magic’ Maxim Shmyrev will be determined to keep his grip on the World Championship of Ping Pong title over two days of competition at Alexandra Palace this weekend.

The 42-year-old from Moscow has held the WCPP since its inauguration in 2011, having retained the crown at last year’s event – and he is now aiming to make it three in a row by Sunday evening.

Event promoter Barry Hearn, the Matchroom Sport and Leyton Orient chairman, believes the Russian is a huge asset to the classic sandpaper hard bat game.

“He’s been fantastic because he’s organised loads of qualifiers in Russia while qualifying himself,” said Hearn. “He’s the most unlikely of success stories.”

In the opening-round double elimination stage, Shmyrev is in a group with England Commonwealth Games hopeful Emma Vickers, who is one of three females in the 64-player field.

The event also sees the return of American Hollywood actor Adoni Maropis – who played terrorist leader Abu Fayed in season six of ‘24’ – and one of the legendary names of English table tennis, 69-year-old Denis Neale, who is the oldest competitor in the event.

The 18-time national champion, who qualified back in July, reached the last 32 last year, and Hearn said: “Denis is back through a qualifier, so he’s there on merit!

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“This is a level playing field and Denis has shown that, coming up to 70 years old, he’s still capable of getting through a tough field and qualifying – who’s to say he can’t win it?

“We had decent crowds last year so we want that to grow and almost turn this into the next darts, because I think it’s capable of producing drama on the table and they’re characters that play the game.

“I will say to people ‘come along and see’. You may be surprised with the level of entertainment.”

Tickets, priced at £10 and £15, are available either at the venue or via