Ma Long and more star names return in Men's World Cup main draw
The Dishang 2020 ITTF Men's World Cup – the second event on the #RESTART series – is under way in Weihai, China. Following Friday's group stage, the top eight seeds are poised to enter the action on Saturday 14 November.
Eyes very much focus on Ma Long (no.2 seed), the reigning Olympic and World champion who last year, for the first time in his career, failed to gain a place on the Men's World Cup podium.
In Weihai the Chinese great has the chance to turn the tables; he is in the same half of the draw as Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto (no.3 seed), against whom Ma suffered a semi-final defeat in the 2019 edition in Chengdu.
Status suggests that their paths will cross again at the same stage this year. In the opening round, Ma faces surprise qualifier, Slovenia's Darko Jorgic (no.18 seed) and awaiting in the quarter-final will be either Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov (no.7 seed) or England's Liam Pitchford (no.10 seed).
Pitchford caught the eye on the opening day, winning his matches against Chuang Chih-Yuan of Chinese Taipei (9-11, 11-6, 11-8, 13-11, 13-11) and USA's Kanak Jha (7-11, 11-4, 13-15, 11-5, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4).
"I was practicing well and putting in the right work, so I felt confident coming into the event. Getting two wins out of two and playing some good table tennis, of course I'm very happy," said Liam Pitchford.
In the same half of the draw, Harimoto takes on Austria's Robert Gardos (no.16 seed) with a potential quarter-final meeting against either Sweden's Mattias Falck (no.6 seed) or Hong Kong China's Wong Chun Ting (no.14 seed).
Falck won their most recent encounter, the 2019 Hong Kong Open, but Wong is very much the player in form. In the group stage he managed to secure top spot, overcoming Korea Republic's Jeoung Youngsik (no.9 seed) in the process (11-9, 10-12, 12-10, 11-7, 7-11, 12-10).
China's Fan Zhendong (no.1 seed) is seeking a record-equalling fourth Men's World Cup. Fan takes on Chuang Chih-Yuan (no.17 seed), who is making his 16th appearance at the event.
Awaiting at the quarter-final stage is either Chinese Taipei's Lin Yun-Ju (no.5 seed) or Germany's Patrick Franziska (no.11 seed). Lin starts the favourite but Franziska is in form. He finished in first place in his group, seeing off Jorgic (11-6, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6) and Nigeria's Quadri Aruna (11-9, 11-5, 11-8, 12-14, 11-8).
Meanwhile, in the same half of the draw, Brazil's Hugo Calderano (no.4 seed) meets Jeoung Youngsik (no.9 seed) while Japan's Koki Niwa (no.8 seed) confronts another Korean in Jang Woojin (no.12 seed).
Calderano defeated Jeoung Youngsik in their only previous battle at the 2019 Austrian Open. Likewise, Jang Woojin holds a 1-0 record against Koki Niwa, having won at the 2017 Asian Games.
The round of 16 and quarter-finals will be played out on Saturday, ahead of Sunday's semi-finals, third place playoff and final.