by Simon Daish
Seeded first for the event and fresh from winning two gold medals at the 2016 Olympic Games, China’s Ma Long will be seen as one of the main contenders for the title in Chengdu.
Ma has won the Men’s Singles category at six previous World Tour tournaments in China, most recently at the 2015 event where he beat Xu Xin (China) in the final.
The top seed is also the current World Championship and Men’s World Cup title holder, and will be confident of his chances at the 2016 SheSays China Open.
However, Ma will face tough opposition in Chengdu, with six players ranked in the world’s top ten also participating.
China Presents Main Title Rivals
Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike (all China) will arguably be the most likely candidates to upset Ma Long’s conquest, being seeded second, third and fourth respectively.
Xu Xin could probe to be a very strong contender for the title, having picked up the 2016 Laox Japan Open and 2016 Korea Open golds featuring victories against Ma Long and Fan Zhendong at both competitions.
19-year-old Fan’s personal best finish at a China Open event in the Men’s Singles was at the semi-finals stage (2014, 2015), but the ambition to show his country just how powerful a player he is after missing out on Rio 2016 could provide Fan Zhendong with the necessary tools to succeed.
Zhang Jike will be looking to put the disappointment of not being able to defend his Olympic title behind him, and a solid performance in Chengdu could go a small way to helping his cause. Winner at the 2010 rendition of the China Open, Zhang is no stranger to success in his home country and his popularity with the Chinese fans could see Zhang triumph.
Potential Players to Upset Chinese Party?
Away from the Chinese contingent there could also be strong challenges from a couple of notable names attending the 2016 SheSays China Open.
Vladimir Samsonov (40) is yet to win a World Tour Men’s Singles title in 2016, but the Belarusian did manage an appearance in the German Open final only to lose out to Ma Long in five ends.
While wins against Fan Zhendong and Zhang Jike have so far escaped Samsonov, the sixth seed does have prior victories over Ma Long and Xu Xin to his name, although not since 2009 and 2012 respectively.
Another player to look out for is pen-holder Wong Chun Ting who has won a World Tour event (2015 Czech Open) since his Round of 32 exit at the 2015 China Open.
Wong has been seeded as the highest ranked non-Chinese player taking part in the Men’s Singles category (fifth), however, if the contestant from Hong Kong is to go all the way in Chengdu he will almost certainly have to achieve something he is yet to do on the World Tour: eliminate one of Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin or Zhang Jike.