by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
He has won the Men’s Singles title at an ITTF World Tour tournament staged in China on six occasions.
Notably, he stood proudly on the top step of the medal podium in 2009 and 2011, twice in 2013, as well as in 2014 and the following year in 2015; between 2004 and 2013, with the exception of 2010, two ITTF World Tour tournaments were held annually in China.
It is the same number as his now retired colleague, Wang Liqin. He emerged victorious in three consecutive years starting in 2000, before succeeding in 2004 and completing the double in 2015).
Already with an overall total of 24 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles to his credit, he has passed Wang Liqin who emerged the champion on 21 occasions; now in Chengdu the task is to reach the magnificent seven and become the most successful of all on home soil.
Furthermore, had it not been for three colleagues, he would already own the record. In 2011 in Shenzhen he was beaten in the Men’s Singles final by Ma Lin. The following year in Shanghai he lost to Xu Xin in the title deciding contest; prior to last year, also in Chengdu, having to settle for the second step of the podium when Fan Zhendong proved his nemesis.
Now in 2017, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin are both on duty, they are the respective second and third seeds; the wins over Ma Long being the one and only occasion when they have lifted the Men’s Singles title.
It is the same for the fourth seed, their compatriot, Zhang Jike; he was won on one occasion; in 2010 in Suzhou, he beat Ma Lin in the final.
Four prior winners and there is one other previous winner whose name appears on this year’s Men’s Singles entry list; Germany’s Timo Boll won in 2006 when he beat Wang Liqin in the final.
He is one of only two players in 30 editions of the tournament, not from China, to have won the Men’s Singles title. The other is the now retired Croatian, Zoran Primorac; he won 20 years ago in 1997 when beating Korea’s Kim Taeksoo in the final.
In Chengdu, Timo Boll is the seventh seed, behind colleague Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Wong Chun Ting, both players well capable of making a major impact; Japan’s Koki Niwa, the nemesis of Xu Xin two months ago at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF Asian Championships in Wuxi, completes the top eight names.