by Simon Daish
The Liebherr 2013 World Championships was the 52nd edition of the event and was hosted at the Palais Omnisport de Paris venue, now known as the AccorHotels Arena, in Paris between Monday 13th and Monday 20th May.
Leading the seeding table for the Men’s Doubles competition was the pairing of Hao Shuai and Ma Lin. The duo were automatically named as early favourites to claim the title in Paris, while the second and third seeded positions were also occupied by Chinese competitors.
Along with the seeding advantage, history appeared to be on China’s side with the nation having lifted the Men’s Doubles trophy on the ten previous occasions at the event.
Also competing in the event were Singapore’s Gao Ning and Yang Zi the fourth seeds and Japan’s Kenta Matsudaira and Koki Niwa, seeded fifth. If anyone was going to challenge the Chinese competitors surely the odds were that it would be one of the above pairings?
However, much to the surprise of every spectator at the Palais Omnisport de Paris both the pairing of Gao Ning and Yang Zi and the fifth seeds Kenta Matsudaira and Koki Niwa made early exits from the tournament, suffering shock defeats in the Round of 32 and Round of 16 respectively.
There was also a shock early elimination for the no.3 seeded team of Chen Qi and Fang Bo, as the Chinese duo failed to prevent a comeback victory for 10th seeds Kazuhiro Chan and Kenji Matsudaira in the last 16 – blowing the competition wide open.
Yet, the main story of the 2013 Men’s Doubles competition went to a Chinese Taipei pairing as Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An stole the headlines.
Seeded seventh, the duo would have considered a semi-final finish to have been a successful outing. However, not only did they manage to reach the last four but they also stunned the second seeds from China Wang Liqin and Zhou Yu in the penultimate round (11-6,11-6,9-11,9-11,11-5,11-8) to progress through to the final.
Awaiting Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An in the play-off for the title were the top seeds Hao Shuai and Ma Lin, and as expected the Chinese pair had endured little trouble on their journey to the final, dropping just three games across the previous four matches.
With history on their side, Hao Shuai and Ma Lin went into the final tie with one hand on the trophy and the Chinese duo got off to a positive start against Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An as they took the early lead.
However, the fast-paced action and tactical finesse from Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An saw the partnership recover well and against all the odds a 4-2 triumph (9-11, 12-10, 11-6, 13-11, 9-11, 11-8) gave Chinese Taipei its first Men’s Doubles gold medal at the World Championships.
“It’s the first time for Chinese Taipei, I can’t find the words. Standing on the podium, listening to the anthem, so special”, Chuang Chih-Yuan.
“I was very nervous at the start of the match. Later I settled down and I was able to play my style”, Chen Chien-An.
The size of the achievement was momentous and Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An’s victory echoed throughout Chinese Taipei. The President of the Republic of China at the time Ma Ying-Jeou hailed the duo with an accolade for their success, “It’s a hard-won achievement that highlights the Taiwan spirit of perseverance and fortitude”.
Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An will be forever remembered for putting Chinese Taipei into the World Table Tennis Championships spotlight with their triumphant campaign in Paris. Now the focus turns to 2017: will Chinese Taipei see a repeat performance from its representatives as they move forward into the World Championships in Düsseldorf?