Ma Long looking for first ever Japan Open Title
Grand Slam Champion looking for the Japan Open Singles crown that has been eluding him for years
Reigning World & Olympic Champion MA Long (CHN) looks at claiming his first ever ITTF World Tour Japan Open Singles title at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Platinum, LION Japan Open begins today 16 June, till 18 June in Tokyo, Japan.
Despite having dominated the international table tennis scene since winning at the Qoros 2015 World Table Tennis Championships on home soil, the Grand Slam Champion has not been able to claim a singles title so far in Japan, losing to teammate XU Xin last year in the semifinals.
MA, who is fresh from his victory at the Liebherr 2017 World Table Tennis Championships in Düsseldorf just two weeks ago, will be aiming for his 24th World Tour event titles to get another step closer to breaking the record of 26 titles set by Belarussian legend Vladimir SAMSONOV.
The 28-year-old will have to fend off competition from several hot contenders for the title, including Germany's TIMO BOLL, local favourite Jun MIZUTANI, teammate XU Xin as well as defending Champion FAN Zhendong (CHN), whom he had a tough 4-3 match against at the World Championships final to defend his crown.
In the Women's Singles event, world number four FENG Tianwei (SGP) will be heading the seeding.
The 30-year-old Singapore who just claimed her tenth ITTF World Tour title at the 2017 Korea Open in April, will have to fight off competition from China's CHEN Meng, Chinese Taipei star CHENG I-Ching as well as local hero Miu HIRANO (JPN) for her chance to claim her third Japan Open title.
The Japanese crowd will be putting their hopes on HIRANO, who was recently crowned Asian Champion after upsetting three top Chinese stars, including World & Olympic Champion DING Ning, as well as claiming Japan's first Women's Singles medal since 1969 at the recently concluded World Championships.
The 17-year-old stated "I'm ready to win the event in Japan right after the World Table Tennis Championships. Never had such a good timing and many people will see the event. I'm happy to play here in Japan!"
The 2017 LION Japan Open is only the second platinum event of the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour which features 12 events across the world in 2017 plus a World Tour Grand Finals, which only the top 16 male and female players from the 12 World Tour events qualify for.
The events are split into two tiers, Regular and Platinum. The six ITTF World Tour Platinum events will have higher prize money and be of a higher level organisation, which will ensure the attendance of the world's best players, resulting in more international exposure for the hosts.