by Wade Townsend
Liu Gouliang always has the big picture in mind; this even applies to when engineering a selection process, so that it serves more than just the purpose of assembling a team.
“Each stage of the selection targets different team members. This time, it’s the third to tenth players.” Liu Guoliang
The first stage of selection was an opportunity for the lower ranked players to showcase their improvement. For the top ranked athletes the objective was different. Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong were expected to take the top two positions; but winning is not always the only goal.
“The reason why Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong participated was to be challenged by their younger teammates. I feel that if they expect more from themselves, different ways of playing the matches will be reflected in the game, including their style, and what they want to practise.” Liu Guoliang
It was a time for Liu Guoliang to observe his players under pressure and see what direction his squad is heading.
“Fan Zhendong, Liang Jingkun, Wang Chuqin and Liu Dingshuo all have quite balanced backhand and forehand skill. But it only means they’re not bad in a certain technical area, they still need time, a lot of time, to become a master.” Liu Guoliang
He may be ranked number two in the world, but at twenty years old Fan Zhendong is still considered to be a developing player and the Chinese team is in no rush to push the young athlete too fast; time is a key ingredient to success.
“Fan Zhendong already seemed to have great strength a few years ago, and as yet he remains in the same position. It’s not simply about technique, but also experience from great matches; some success, some setbacks, and the everlasting process of perfecting one’s skill.” Liu Guoliang
With another World Championships just around the corner, will this be the event to edge Fan Zhendong further along and allow him to catch up to his more experienced teammates?
The final selection stage for the Chinese team will be held from Friday 3rd March to Monday 13th March in Shenzhen. The first stage will be a round robin tournament with the top place finisher of the 12 athletes qualifying for the Liebherr 2017 World Championships. The remaining 11 players will then be divided into three groups; the winners of each group playing off to determine the second guaranteed ticket to Düsseldorf.