Following the "IN"fallible Chinese in Lasko - Butterfly Table Tennis
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Lin Gaoyuan

Following the “IN”fallible Chinese in Lasko

(by Steve Hopkins)

China currently holds the top three spots in the ITTF World Rankings, so heading into a 3-person team format at the World Team Championships in Houston in a few week, they would be heavy favorites.  That dominant position was weakened, somewhat when China announced that neither Ma Long nor Xu Xin will compete.

Fan Zhendong (World No. 1) will anchor the team, and he will have a supporting cast of lesser known stars with him: Lin Gaoyuan (World No. 7), Liang Jingkun (World No. 12), Wang Chuqin (World No. 17), and Zhou Qihao (World No. 26).  The other four players on the Chinese team were the top seeds this week at the WTT Contender event in Laško, Slovenia.  The Chinese intended the event as a warm-up, and hopefully a preview of their dominant position at the World Championships – thus far, the infallible Chinese are looking fallible.

Zhou Qihao was the first to fall.  He lost to Belgium’s Olav Kosolosky early – in Routh 2 of the Draw.  *Kosolosky is clearly playing well and won his next two matches before falling to Germany’s Steffen Mengel 0-3, but Kosolosky is currently ranked outside of the World’s Top 375.  Lin Gaoyuan’s result this week in Lasko wasn’t much better.  Lin fell to England’s Paule Drinkhall 1-3.  They split the first two games, but the match wasn’t close – with Drinkhall pulling away late in the games and winning by relatively comfortable margins.  *Drinkhall is now into the Quarters, so like Kosolosky – he is clearly playing well, but these aren’t the type of players that generally take out the top Chinese seeds.

The other two Chinese players are still cruising – neither Liang Jingkun nor Wang Chuqin has let to drop a game as they each head for the Quarterfinals (in opposite sides of the draw).  But of the four Worlds teammates playing here in Slovenia this week, half have fallen in early upsets.

China will still hold the top seed in Houston (and World No. 1, Butterfly player Fan Zhendong will be anchoring the squad), but the playing field looks much more even now.  The 1/7/12 ranking numbers that China can field in their top three will match up well against the next seeds: Japan (4, 18, 22), Korea (11, 13, 20), Germany (10/15/36 without Ovtcharov) and Taipei (6, 25, 74) and Sweden (9, 28, 44).

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