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Other Events - 10 Feb 2015

Past winners but can one member of famous five create a first


Five past winners on duty and perhaps one can create a first at the forthcoming GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open which starts on Wednesday 11th February. No player has ever won the Men’s Singles event at an ITTF World Tour tournament in Kuwait o

Five past winners on duty and perhaps one can create a first at the forthcoming GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open which starts on Wednesday 11th February.

No player has ever won the Men’s Singles event at an ITTF World Tour tournament in Kuwait on more than one occasion; the prestigious title has never been retained. Now that situation may soon come to a conclusion; the top four seeds in this year’s event, all from China and occupying the top four places on the current Men’s World Rankings, are all past winners.

XU Xin, MA Long, FAN Zhendong and ZHANG Jike are all past winners; the one other is Vladimir SAMSONOV of Belarus, he is the no.7 seed behind Chinese Taipei’s CHUANG Chih-Yuan and Portugal’s Marcos FREITAS. Hong Kong’s TANG Peng completes the top eight names.

Somewhat similarly in 2008, Vladimir SAMSONOV was outside the top four names; he was the no.5 seed and in order to win the Men’s Singles title, he had to thwart the might of China. He did just that; it was one of the finest performances ever witnessed on the ITTF World Tour. At the quarter-final stage he beat WANG Hao, before overcoming MA Long and CHEN Qi to arrest the title.

The semi-final duel against MA Long was a classic seven games duel, against WANG Hao the verdict was decided in five games; whilst in the final CHEN Qi was given few chances to demonstrate his outstanding talent. He was beaten in four straight games.

Notably, typical to the mild mannered character of Vladimir SAMSONOV, he walked slowly over to shake hands with LIU Guoliang, the Chinese National Team Coach; his facial expression one which suggested that of apology for beating an in-form CHEN Qi so comprehensively.

A win of some note and for XU Xin, when he won in 2010, it was a win of note, a landmark, a personal triumph; it was his first ever ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title. Furthermore, he won in somewhat bizarre circumstances; he was beaten in four straight games at the quarter-final stage by colleague WANG Liqin.

Unfortunately, WANG Liqin’s racket failed the after match test and he was disqualified. XU Xin was reinstated; he beat MA Long in the semi-final and MA Lin, the winner in 2006, in the final.

Equally for FAN Zhendong there was a poignancy; he beat colleague YAN An in the final and from that gained satisfaction on two fronts. He collected his third ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title in a space of just three months and extracted revenge; some 10 weeks earlier he had lost to Yan An in the final of the Men’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open.

Success for FAN Zhendong who followed ZHANG Jike as the Kuwait Men’s Singles champion, he won in 2013 and won as only ZHANG Jike could win.

In the opening round against Hong Kong’s WONG Chun Ting, he was three games to one down before securing the next three to secure victory 12-10 in the deciding seventh game. Not only was ZHANG Jike fighting his opponent, more pertinently he was fighting himself. Discussions followed with personal coach, XIAO Zhan. ZHANG Jike duly responded, in his next four matches en route to gold he surrendered just four games, beating MA Long in five games in the final.

If he wins in Kuwait one wonders how he might celebrate and for sure the ZHANG Jike celebrations, whatever your opinion, do live in the memory.

One wonders what he may do next; it was the same before ZHANG Jike was born with regards to the tennis star John McENROE. One wondered what he may do next.

Always, he let his feelings known; especially when playing Tom GULLIKSON at Wimbledon in 1981. Furthermore, there is a common factor, shared by the sporting superstars which could have an effect on the ZHANG Jike celebrations should he win.

Both celebrate birthdays on Monday 16th February, the day after the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open finishes.

Is there something about that birthday date? You cannot be serious!

Courtesy ITTF

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