Zhang Jike will partner Seo Hyundeok in the Men's Doubles event
Photo By: Xi Peng
GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour, Korean Air Korea Open, Major Series (Click here to access this section)
Ma Long, Xu Xin, Zhang Jike and Wang Hao, the respective top four named players on the Menís World Ranking list, head the field for the Menís Singles event at the Korean Air Korea Open, the latest stop on the ITTF 2013 World Tour.
Beijing Olympic gold medallist, Ma Lin, currently listed at no.8 on the Menís World Rankings, is the fifth seed with the dynamic 20 year old Yan An, the Menís Singles runner up in Qatar earlier in the year in February, being the ninth seed.
They are the illustrious Chinese names on duty in Incheon City for the five day tournament which starts on Wednesday 3rd April.
Eye Catching Pairings
An eye catching Menís Singles line-up but the Menís Doubles is even more eye-catching; following an initiative from Liu Guoliang, the Chinese Menís Team Head Coach, the star Chinese names link with players from foreign shores.
Furthermore, the partnerships have been thoughtfully chosen; three of the six pairings involve a left hander partnering a right hander and three display a shake-hands grip artist with a pen-hold exponent.
Both combinations have been favoured over the years by China when Menís Doubles is on the menu.
However, if there is one pairing that might test the patience of the coach sitting courtside or drive the nominated adviser to drink; it is the top seeded duo of Seo Hyundeok and Zhang Jike.
Seo Hyudeok is the most unpredictable member of the current Korean Menís Team; a shake-hands left hander he can dazzle and disappoint in the same tournament, his ability is unquestioned.
Equally at the moment Zhang Jike is vacillating in form, seemingly having to fight himself in the early rounds of a tournament, before being motivated when a massive challenge arises.
Last of Old Guard
In many ways, Seo Hyundeok reflects the new thinking in Korean coaching; the backhand is now seen as vitally important; hence the new generation comprises a complete gambit of shake-hands grip players.
No pen-holder in the guise of Ma Lin, Xu Xin or Wang Hao, all lethal from the reversed side of the racket, has emerged in Koreans ranks; the last of the old brigade using just one side of the racket only and executing forehands at dynamic speed is 28 year old Lee Jungwoo.
At the Korean Air Korea Open, he partners Ma Long; two of the Worldís most potent forehands will be united; they are the second seeds.
Vibrant partnerships but if one pair may reap rewards for sheer consistency and excelling in rallies; it could well be the combination of two right handers, the shake-hands grip style of Koreaís Jung Youngsik and the pen-hold technique of Wang Hao.
Both excel in rally play; they are the third seeds.
Three intriguing partnerships but if one partnership is captivating it is that of Frenchman Adrien Mattenet and Xu Xin; if any pair is to beat the Euro-Asia duo by gaining angles, they will have to play at right angles.
Adrien Mattenet is one of the tallest players on the ITTF World Tour, time and again he thrills the crowds by reaching returns that are outside the grasp of most human beings; equally when it comes to sideways movement is their anyone more adept than Xu Xin?
The left handed pen-holder is surely the current master doubles player?
Adrien Mattenet and Xu Xin are the fourth seeds and one of the favourites for the Menís Doubles crown.
Voice of Experience
However, note two more pairs involving Chinese stars.
The right handed pen-holder, Ma Lin partners the right handed shake-hands grip Korean, Cho Eonrae; whilst Yan An joins forces with Koreaís Lee Sangsu.
No-one can match Ma Lin when Menís Doubles is considered; in addition to being Olympic and World champion with Chen Qi, he has no less than 39 such titles to his credit on the ITTF World Tour.
Alongside Cho Eonrae, who first came to notice at the World Junior Championships a decade ago, they are a formidable partnership.
Experience may well prove a key factor but if speed is the key then watch Yan An and Lee Sangsu, the two shake-hands grip right handers.
Both are hungry for success, both are on the brink of first team selection.
Yan An dazzled at the recent ITTF 2013 World Tour Qatar Open in February by reaching the Menís Singles final only to lose by the very narrowest of margins against Ma Long; whilst remember last year at the GAC GROUP 2012 KRA Korean Open in the very same city?
Remember Last Year
In the second round of the Menís Singles event, Lee Sangsu beat Ma Long in five games!
The cries of ďLee Sangsu, Lee Sangsu, Lee SangsuĒ rang around the hall; if the Korean clicks with Yan An, the chant may well ring again.
In Incheon, Cho Eonrae and Ma Lin occupy the eighth seeded position in the draw, Lee Sangsu and Yan An must play in the preliminary rounds.
Play in the preliminary rounds of the Menís Doubles event commences on Wednesday 3rd April, the main draw begins on Friday 5th April.