by Wade Townsend
Lin Gaoyuan and Ding Ning have booked the final guaranteed tickets for team China to the Liebherr 2017 World Table Tennis Championships.
In the men’s side of the draw, the final day of play at the Marvellous 12 turned out to be a battle of the southpaws, with only the left-handers Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan and Zhou Yu still in the running for a ticket to Düsseldorf.
Ranked three in the world, some 46 places above his nearest competitor, it was Xu Xin that went in to the evening favourite. However, it was hometown boy Lin Gaoyuan that caused the upset in the opening match, defeating Xu Xin 2-1. The crowd couldn’t have asked for a closer encounter, with Lin winning the final game 11-9.
While Xu Xin was able to pick up a win against Zhou Yu, he was left watching from the sidelines as Lin Gaoyuan raced to a 2-0 win against Zhou, securing Lin the final ticket.
In the women’s side of the draw Ding Ning defended her position as number one in the world, defeating both Feng Yalan and Chen Meng.
“I have achieved the goal I set for myself before the match. After the Rio Olympics, I have not trained very systemically. Now I am satisfied with my performance and my recovery so far. But I also realize that my inner power is not enough for such a tough schedule. I still need to make adjustments for myself in training.” Ding Ning
With the final guaranteed places now determined, three more spots remain to be filled in team China’s men’s and women’s squads heading to Düsseldorf; however the fate of the players are no longer in their own hands. The final tickets will be at the discretion of the national coaches.
With both Ma Long and Zhang Jike withdrawing from the Marvellous 12 with injuries, the coming weeks will determine whether or not they will be healthy in time for the event. Many doubts will hang over Zhang’s possible future, with the grand slam champion largely absent from international competition since the Rio Olympic Games.
Meanwhile for the the women’s selection it will be an equally tough decision. World number two Zhu Yuling certainly seemed to perform below expectations during the Marvellous 12. And selectors will have to ask whether standout players such as Mu Zi and Feng Yalan have the international experience to warrant a place in Düsseldorf.
If you were in Liu Guoliang’s position, what team would you choose? Comment your picks for team China below.