(by Steve Hopkins)
China is at no loss of great table tennis talent. They hold the top three spots in the World Rankings, and one of their leaders, Ma Long, has dropped as he has recovered from injury. But most recently, China held an invitational that featured the best 12 players in their country. This epic Marvellous 12 event was a giant round robin where the winners have often been selected to represent China at the World Team Championships. However, this year, the only two of the team members for the World Championships team finished in the Top 5 at the Marvelous 12.
At the Marvelous 12 just a week ago, Fan Zhendong (World No. 1) dominated and Liang Jingkun (World No. 13) was clearly the second best. These are the only two Top 5 finishers who have been named to China’s World Championship team. Xue Fei, Yu Ziyang, and Fang Bo who each performed admirably (and who each finished above current team members) were left off of the list.
China has elected to move forward with their best team by World Ranking, naming Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, and Lin Gaoyuan (World No. 1, 2, and 3), and then including Liang Jingkun (second place at the Marvellous 12), and Ma Long (who has missed several months on the tour due to an injury) to round out the team. The team will certainly be favored at the World Table Tennis Championships when it is held next month in Budapest. The scary question for the rest of the world after the results of the marvelous 12 may be whether China is even sending their best five players.