By Neha Aggarwal
#1 Kristian Karlsson: Ranked 29th in October world rankings, the Swedish was probably the most successful player as he cruised past some of the big names to make it to the semi finals. He qualified second in the group stage loosing to Korea’s Lee Sangsu 1-4 and a hard fought win (4-3) against USA’s Feng Yijun. Although Kristian Karlsson did not win a medal, but defeating Ovtcharov Dimitrij in the round of 16 at his home soil and then Simon Gauzy in the marathon seven setter, he was the man who stole hearts.
#2 Fan Zhendong: The 19-year old world number one had been waiting too long to win a major world title. At Saarbrücken, he finally did it. Winnng the world junior championship in 2012 and four years hence climbing the second spot in the world at the senior level without winning a world title, is exceptional. His lethal forehands and equally devastating backhand makes him a versatile player and with age at his side, he could probably become the next Chinese legend.
#3 Wong Chun Ting: Semi-finalist at the China Open, last 16 appearance at the Olympic Games and now a third spot at the World Cup, Wong Chun Ting has been steadily rising his game. He entered the top 10 in the world ranking in April 2016 and since then is performing on a consistent upward curve. With his aggressive display of forehand topspins covering all table combined with tactical backhand openings, Wong Chun Ting is a hard found alloy.
#4 Par Gerell: The Swedish, ranked 43 in the world ranking, knocked out Aruna Quadri (NGR) and Gao Ning (SGP) in the group stage and Tiago Apolonia (POR) in the round of 16 before bowing down to Xu Xin in the quarter finals. He beat 3 players ranked above him and clearly showed signs of success. He has been dwindling in the 30s since a long time now and the success at the World Cup will shoot him up the rankings chart.
#5 HD videos: As ITTF released the videos in HD this World Cup, the fans were able to enjoy a better quality of LIVE streaming on ITTF.com/ittv. HD videos provide enriched viewing and thus a valuable addition to the fan experience online.
#6 In stadium entertainment: The presentation ceremonies, the cheerleaders, the exhibition match between two legends and over all a great experience for the fans in the venue, was clearly a hit for the organizers of the tournament at Saarbrücken.
#1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov: The German superstar was probably the most disappointed player of all. Ovtcharov lost to Kristian Karlsson in the round of 16 with a score of 4-1. He later revealed that a lot was going on in his mind- the birth of his daughter, the demise of his grandmother and fatigue from the huge workload of the Olympic Games. Loosing on home soil is surely painful and the World Cup ended on a disappointing note for the world number six.
#2 Quadri Aruna: The crowd favourite Nigerian was eliminated in the groups stage as he lost both his matches, to Gao Ning (SGP) 3-4 and Par Gerell (SWE) 2-4. A true fighter and world number 25, Quadri gave in the best he could that day but his best was not enough to secure him a position in the knock out stage.
#3 Vladimir Samsonov: Competing in his 16th World Cup, Samsonov was the player to watch for especially after his recent success at the Rio Olympic Games. However, the world number 9 lost to Korea’s Lee Sangsu with a scoreline of 4-1. Although the 40-year old Belarusian claimed that the loss did not bother him as much, the rankings will surely be affected.
The big question
Were most of the players under post Olympic fatigue?
This World Cup saw none of the Olympians except for Xu Xin, who emerged successful at Rio, continue their winning streak this weekend. The likes of Vladimir Samsonov, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Aruna Quadri and Hugo Calderano who impressed at Rio, failed to continue and translate their success from Rio to Saarbrücken. Ma Long and Jun Mizutani pulled out of the tournament stating lack of preparations due to the busy schedule post the Olympics.
Clearly, the ones who were not present at Rio or did not reach until the final rounds there, emerged successful this World Cup. It was an opportunity well capitalized. They were still waiting to prove their mettle and Saarbrücken was a perfect platform. Especially for Fan Zhendong ,who was eyeing his first major title, replacing Jun Mizutani who pulled out out the tournament was a blessing in disguise.
Preparing for an Olympic Games is such a herculean task. An athlete’s entire life revolves around that four year cycle. They give in their heart and soul to prepare for this quadrennial event. Once its done, it takes time to regain their energies and get back to work all over again.
Thus, the big question arises whether these big stars were mentally and physically exhausted post the Olympic Games and was that a big reason of their disappointed results?
Something to look back upon.
But the happiest were these legends who who put up a great exhibition game!