LIEBHERR 2017 World Table Tennis Championships starts with a total of 613 players from 108 countriesPhoto: Courtesy ITTF
The biggest table tennis event on earth will commence this Monday (May 29th) in Dusseldorf, Germany
The LIEBHERR 2017 World Table Tennis Championships will commence this Monday (May 29th) in Dusseldorf, the capital of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A total of 613 players from 108 countries are going to compete in Messe Dusseldorf, a trade fair ground and organizer that occupies a total exhibition area of 306,000 m2.
Ninth time World Championships will be staged with only individual events, since the inaugural one held in Eindhoven in 1999. Dusseldorf is determined to surpass many records set by Chinese city of Suzhou two years ago. New technologies and innovations such as aerial cam, ball-tracking technology and the Liebherr Live Show mean that fans all over the globe will be brought closer to the action.
China won all singles events in both men`s and women`s competitions in last six championships. Last gold taken by one non-Chinese player belongs to Austrian Werner SCHLAGER, men`s champion in 2003. This time reigning champions are MA Long and DING Ning.
Actual, both World and Olympic champion, 28-year-old MA Long will play for its second crown, after first he took in front of his fans in Suzhou. Then he beat unexpected finalist, his compatriot FANG Bo. The 2015 semi-finalist, 20-year-old title contender FAN Zhendong now stands as No. 2 seed, followed by two more Chinese players, 2013 semi-finalist XU Xin and double World champion (2011, 2013) ZHANG Jike.
Two biggest hopes of host nation and two highest ranked European players, Dimitrij OVTCHAROV (No. 5 seed) and Timo BOLL (No. 8) lead the list of biggest challengers. OVTCHAROV reached three times Round of 16 (Yokohama 2009, Rotterdam 2011, Paris 2013) while the best BOLL`s achievement was bronze medal in Rotterdam, Netherlands, six years ago, when he was beaten by ZHANG Jike in the semi-final stage.
Great Belarus Vladimir SAMSONOV, actual No. 12 seed, will try to bring back some memories from 1997 World Championships in Manchester, when he lost to Jan-Ove WALDNER in the last all-European final. No. 13 seed Simon GAUZI is determined to set his personal best score, as he twice in a row reached Round of 64. Marcos FREITAS (No. 14) hopes that he will repeat, at least, Round of 16 he saw in Paris 2013. Austrian Stefan FEGERL (No. 18, Round of 32 in 2015) and Swede Kristian KARLSSON (No. 19, Round of 64 in 2015) will play in front of “domestic” fans, bearing in mind that they both are members of Borussia Dusseldorf.
Regarding Women`s Singles event, 26 year-old DING Ning targets her third World crown, after 2011 and 2015. Other strong contenders are her compatriots LIU Shiwen (2013, 2015 finalist) and 22-year-old ZHU Yuling (2015 semifinalist). Singapore`s FENG Tianwei hopes that he is capable to go one step more after 2015 quarterfinal, while 17-year-old Japan`s Miu HIRANO could go down in history. HIRANO, who reached Round of 32 two years ago, already made history when she won the Women's World Cup in 2016, becoming the youngest winner ever. At the 2017 Asian Championships, she shocked the world once again by defeating 3 Chinese players (including Olympic Champion DING Ning) to win the Women's Singles title.
Best ranked European representative is 2005 champion of Old Continent, LIU Jia (No. 12). The 35-year-old set his best score in the World Championships in 2001 in Osaka, when she played in the quarter-final. The 23-year-old host Petrissa SOLJA (No. 13) was eliminated in the Round of 64 two years ago, but couple months after that she won Bronze at the Women's World Cup, beating higher ranked players like Ai FUKUHARA and LI Jiao.
Luxembourg`s NI Xialian (LUX) and Viktoria PAVLOVICH (BLR) will compete at the World Championships for a record nineteenth time this year. NI Xialian will be the oldest female player, having 53 years, 10 months and 26 days on the opening day.
Concerning doubles events, one of most intriguing questions is how far can go two table tennis legends, Timo BOLL and MA Long. They partnership started two years ago in Suzhou, but tough draw prevented them to come closer to the podium. In the second round of the Men’s Doubles event they lost in six games to the eventual winners XU Xin and ZHANG Jike. Now, following the draw for the Men’s Doubles event at the LIEBHERR 2017 World Championships, they will face a very similar problem once again. Potentially, they could play against No. 3 seeds FAN Zhendong and XU Xin, the no.3 seeds, in the third round.
Medalists of the 2015 World Championships in Suzhou, China
Men`s Singles: Gold MA Long (China), Silver FANG Bo (China), Bronze FAN Zhendong (China) and ZHANG Jike (China)
Women`s Singles: Gold DING Ning (China), Silver LIU Shiwen (China), Bronze LI Xiaoxia (China) and MU Zi (China)
Men`s Doubles: Gold ZHANG Jike / XU Xin (China), Silver FAN Zhendong / ZHOU Yu (China), Bronze LEE Sangsu/SEO Hyuendeok (Korea), Kenta MATSUDAIRA/Koki NIWA (Japan)
Women`s Doubles: Gold ZHU Yuling / LIU Shiwen (China), Silver DING Ning / LI Xiaoxia (China), Bronze FENG Tianwei / YU Mengyu (Singapore) and LI Jie (Netherlands) / LI Qian (Poland)
Mixed Doubles: Gold YANG Haeun (Korea) / XU Xin (China), Silver Kasumi ISHIKAWA / Maharu YOSHIMURA (Japan), Bronze KIM Jong / KIM Hyok-boong (North Korea) and DOO Hoi Kem / WONG Chun Ting (Hong Kong)