Kuala Lumpur First Team Selection Head Seeding in Kuwait
Courtesy of ITTF
Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike; the four players who time and again at the recent Perfect 2016 World Team Championships were the preferred option for head coach, Liu Guoliang, are the leading names on duty in the Men’s Singles event at the forthcoming 2016 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open.
Play commences on Wednesday March 16th and concludes on Sunday March 20th.
They are the respective top four seeds and they are all previous winners of the prestigious title; all beating colleagues in the final, with Ma Long the most successful of all, a phrase that is increasing synonymous with the name of the current World champion.
Only 18 years old at the time, Ma Long won in 2007 when he beat Ma Lin in the final, it was to be his first ever ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title, a further 20 have followed; he is now level on 21 such wins with colleague Wang Liqin and second on the overall list behind Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus.
Later Ma Long was to win in Kuwait in 2009 when he beat Wang Hao in the final and last year when he overcame Xu Xin to secure the title.
It was the second time that Xu Xin had appeared in a Men’s Singles final in Kuwait; the first was in 2010 when, like Ma Long three years earlier, he won his first ever ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title.
Furthermore, he won in quite bizarre circumstances. At the quarterfinal stage he was beaten in four straight games by Wang Liqin; unfortunately Wang Liqin’s racket did not pass the after match test. Xu Xin progressed to beat Ma Long and Ma Lin to secure the title.
Zhang Jike and Fan Zhendong
Success for Ma Long and Xu Xin; in 2013 it was success for Zhang Jike and one year later for Fan Zhendong.
Notably Zhang Jike beat Ma Long in the final, at the same stage Fan Zhendong overcame Yan An.
Two Further Winners
Past winners on duty this year and there are two more; the only two non-Chinese players to arrest the Kuwait Open Men’s Singles title.
Jun Mizutani won in 2012 when he beat Korea’s Ryu Seungmin in the final, having in the penultimate round, accounted for Chuang Chih-Yuan, a result that could be pertinent this year.
Even More Relevant
However, even more relevant is the success gained by Vladimir Samsonov in 2008; on that occasion he beat three members of the Chinese National Team in succession to arrest the title. Is that the last time a player from foreign shores achieved that feat?
At the quarterfinal stage, he overcame Wang Hao, in the semi-finals Ma Long; before, in the final defeating Chen Qi.
Now could there be a good omen for Vladimir Samsonov? It was Olympic year and the tournament followed the Evergrande Real Estate World Team Championships in Guangzhou.
In that tournament Vladimir Samsonov had not enjoyed the best of fortunes; Belarus had finished in 14th position in the Men’s event. Likewise at the recent Perfect 2016 World Team Championships, Belarus had not excelled; they finished in 21st place with as eight years earlier, Vladimir Samsonov out of form.
Somewhat surprisingly in Kuala Lumpur, he played just one match and lost to Kou Lei in the contest against Ukraine.
Neither excelled in the Malaysian capital city; both are now highly experienced players, by comparison, the two names who complete the elite list, are players who have sprung to prominence in the past two years.
Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting is the no.11 seed; he is followed immediately by Korea’s Jung Youngsik, the no.12 seed.
Previous Men’s Singles champions on duty; in the Men’s Doubles event, no previous pairing that has struck gold appears on the 2016 entry list. However, players who have enjoyed success with other partners do appear.
Xu Xin and Zhang Jike are the top seeds, followed by Korea’s Jung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu. Fan Zhendong and Ma Long occupy the third seeded spot with Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Tang Peng completing the names of the top four pairs.
Next in line, Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan and Huang Sheng-Sheng followed by colleagues Chien Chen-An and Chiang Hung-Chieh occupy the next two seeded positions.
Chiang Hung-Chieh in partnership with Huang Sheng-Sheng sensationally won one year ago when beating Xu Xin and Zhang Jike in the final; two years earlier Xu Xin succeeded with Yan An, whilst in 2010 Zhang Jike prevailed in harness with Ma Long.
The one other former Men’s Doubles winner on duty is Li Hu; he joins forces with Chen Feng, the Singaporeans being the no.15 seeds. In 2012, he partnered to Gao Ning to success.
Meanwhile, in the Under 21 Men’s Singles event just one previous winner is on duty, the defending champion. Denmark’s Zhai Yujia who beat Belgium’s Robin Devos in the final one year ago, is the no.5 seed.
Brazil’s Hugo Calderano leads the list followed by Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit, Portugal’s João Geraldo and Japan’s Kohei Sambe.