by Simon Daish
Runner up at last year’s Men’s World Cup Fan Zhendong (CHN) is aiming for the top step of the podium at 2016’s competition, and the 19-year-old’s statement of intent for the title was furthered with his dominant display in the Round of 16.
Seeded 16th, Gao Ning (SIN) was one of 12 players who had to participate in qualifying groups on day one and a record of one win and one defeat was enough to send Gao through to the main draw. But that was as far as Gao would progress.
Right from the word ‘go’ Fan’s aggressive play was too hot to handle for his opponent, dropping just six points across the opening two games.
Game three saw a much better performance from Gao but the Singapore competitor never came close to mounting any serious challenge in the match, and Fan powered to victories in the third and fourth ends to secure safe passage to the next round (11-3,11-3, 11-6, 11-3).
Such was the difference in performance between Fan Zhendong and Gao Ning in the tie, that Fan was left rather surprised by the end scoreline:
“I thought the match would be harder for me… I have played against him before and I won. I think my next game will [be] a tougher one and I believe if I keep my focus and concentration I can win.” – Fan Zhendong (China).
Following his exit Gao admitted that he never felt confident about his chances of success against Fan, “I did not believe I would win against Fan Zhendong because he was better than me. He is a very strong player and I have no idea how to play him. But I am happy with some of the points I picked up.”