by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Accepted that he is a former World champion, he won the Mixed Doubles event in partnership with Cao Zhen when in the colours of China at the H.I.S. 2009 World Championships in Yokohama but if he is to succeed in his opening round contest in the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Atiyah Arena, he will need to excel the standard reached just over seven years ago.
He faces China’s Ma Long, the defending champion, four times winner of the title, more than any other player; add to that fact that he is the reigning Olympic and World champion; the daunting task is put into perspective.
“I chose to continue playing table tennis after Rio, definitely I want to play every match well. The Grand Finals is the last competition of the year. I have won four times before, so this time I hope I can still do my best and play well in every single match”, Ma Long
Likewise, tough tasks face Japan’s Koki Niwa, the player who received a last minute call up to replace the injured Zhang Jike; he confronts the latter’s Chinese national team colleague, Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed.
Equally, it is a similar daunting prospect for Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An; he opposes the third member of the Chinese contingent on duty in Doha. He plays Xu Xin, the no.3 seed.
Meanwhile, for twice Grand Finals Men’s Singles champion, Japan’s Jun Mizutani, the no.4 seed, he confronts Korea’s Jeoung Youngsik; whilst Europe, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov opposes Hong Kong’s Tang Peng; Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus confronts Japan’s Yuto Muramatsu.
In the one remaining first round Men’s Singles clash; Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan opposes Japan’s Yuya Oshima.