by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
World class, each has their own opinion of the phrase but three times a winner of the Men’s World Cup, reaching the very pinnacle of the rankings and with 26 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles to his credit, more than any other player, the accolade is well merited.
Prior to the ITTF World Tour starting in 1996, the name of Vladimir Samsonov was well known; between 1988 in Novi Sad and 1993 in Lublijana he had won every title available at the European Youth Championships.
Two years later after his success in the Slovenian capital city, he reached the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles event in Tianjin, losing to China’s Liu Guoliang. Also, he reached the final of the Men’s Doubles in partnership with Croatia’s Zoran Primorac.
Now, here is somewhat of an anomaly in the career of Vladimir Samsonov; in 1996 and 1997 at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, partnering Germany’s Jörg Rosskopf, he was the Men’s Doubles runner up. On all three silver medal finishes it was defeat at the hands of Chinese Olympic champions.
In 1995, it was second best to Lu Lin and Wang Tao, in 1996 to Wang Liqin and Yan Sen; the following year when Hong Kong hosted the Grand Finals, Kong Linghui and Liu Guoliang proved the nemesis.
Surely, those results suggest that on the ITTF World Tour, Vladimir Samsonov would have enjoyed outstanding Men’s Doubles success; not so, he has just one title to his name. In Linz in 1997, again in harness with Jörg Rosskopf, the duo beat China’s Liu Guoliang and Ma Lin, to secure the top prize.
Furthermore, there is only one other occasion when Vladimir Samsonov has reached an ITTF World Tour Men’s Doubles final; in Zagreb in 1999, partnering Zoran Primorac the pair experienced defeat in the final when confronting the French outfit of Patrick Chila and Jean-Philippe Gatien.
Defeats in the latter stages of proceedings in Tianjin but 1995 proved a milestone; in December of that year he was listed at no.9 on the Men’s World Rankings, the first time in the top 10 names.
He maintained a top 10 ranking until December 2011 when he fell to no.14; it was an unbroken run in the top ten of 191 months and 176 editions of the listings, on no less than 18 of those editions, he was named in the no.1 spot.
Furthermore, since December 2011, in 62 publications of the Men’s World Rankings, his lowest is no.15 in August 2012 and October 2013; moreover in that period he has occupied a top 10 place on 27 occasions.
Overall, he has been named in the top 10 of the Men’s World Rankings for a total of 203 publications of the listings, a total of 218 months.
Also, now 40 years old, it would seem he is maturing like a good wine; he has occupied a top 10 place since January 2016.
Vladimir Samsonov, worthy of being called world class, the facts speak for themselves.