by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
China’s elite with European partners poses an intriguing scenario with Timo Boll and Ma Long no doubt hoping that the fortunes of the draw may prove more favourable in Düsseldorf than in Suzhou.
“I’m very excited to be playing with Timo in the Men’s Doubles event. It’s a pity that we lost in the second round in 2015, actually we played well and we had chances back then. I hope that we will be able to perform our best on Timo’s home soil this year. I will put in my best effort to value this opportunity!” Ma Long
In the Chinese city they were beaten in the second round by the eventual champions, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike. However, they have experienced success; on the ITTF World Tour in 2013 in Chengdu, they won the Men’s Doubles event at the final expense of respective colleagues Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Yan An.
“I am looking forward to our second attempt at a World Championships. On one hand I have a good contact with Ma Long also away from the table. On the other hand our performances at the China Open 2013 as well as in 2015 in Suzhou brought great and memorable moments for both of us, even if our success had different results. Now we have a third attempt in my home country. This is another, wonderful and very fine career highlight for me to play with Ma Long at home soil in Düsseldorf.” Timo Boll
Success in Chengdu, it is a city where Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin have also enjoyed success; they won in 2015 beating Chinese National Team colleagues Fang Bo and Zhu Linfeng in the final.
“Double pairs from different nations are enriching our sport and will make relationships between national associations even stronger.” Thomas Weikert, ITTF President
Overall the Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin partnership has reached three ITTF World Tour Men’s Doubles finals; always facing colleagues in the title decider. They were the runners up in Stockholm in 2014, beaten by Wang Hao and Yan; last year in Chengdu they experienced defeat at the hands of Ma Long and Zhang Jike.
Notably both partnerships involve the favoured left and right handed combination; Timo Boll and Xu Xin being the left handers, it is the very same in the Mixed Doubles combinations. The Europeans are the left handers.
“This is a special gesture from China with respect to the German Table Tennis Association and German sport; it is good for the table tennis fans.” Michael Geiger, President, German Table Tennis Association
The policy worked well at the Qoros 2017 World Championships when Xu Xin partnered Korea’s Yang Haeun to gold; it could well work again at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships.
Most certainly in recent years Jonathan Groth and Petrissa Solja are two of the most improved players in the old continent; both fulfilling the potential shown in junior days.
“It will be very special for me to play alongside with one of the strongest players from the world’s best nation. How successful this can work was shown by Xu Xin and his Korean partner Yang Haeun, who became world champions 2015 in Suzhou. We are also a left and right hander combination; so we will take Xu Xin and Yang Haeun as a good example and see how far that goes. I am very happy to play a World Championships in my home country and I am sure our mixed will be lifted by the crowd.”Petrissa Solja
Likewise both Jonathan Groth and Petrissa Solja have partners who excelled as teenagers, both World Junior champions; Feng Yalan won the Girls’ Singles title in Cairo in 2006, Fang Bo, the Men’s Singles runner up two years ago in Suzhou, succeeded in Cartagena de Indias in 2009.
“I am very happy to play mixed doubles with Solja. I have watched her match before and know that she is a very good player. I will try my best and do the full preparation during the closed training. I hope I can pair with Solja to win the Mixed Doubles title in Germany.” Fang Bo
Now, in Düsseldorf could either succeed again?
Moreover the host nation is a strong contender for honours on more than one front. A German winner on German soil; that wets the appetite!
Exciting times await at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships