by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
One year ago, Yuto Muramatsu caused somewhat of an upset; he started proceedings as the no.6 seed; if he is to repeat the feat this year then he will have to cause an even bigger upset, this year he is the no.11 seed.
Furthermore, at the top of the order is one of the most successful players in the history of the ITTF World Tour; Germany’s Timo Boll is the top seed. Currently with 19 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles to his credit, he stands in fifth place on the all-time list.
China’s Ma Lin, Wang Liqin and Ma Long are the names immediately ahead of the German star; Ma Lin has 20 such wins, Wang Liqin succeeded 21 times, whilst Ma Long with 24 titles is in hot pursuit of Vladimir Samsonov. The living legend from Belarus has reserved the top step of the Men’s Singles podium on no less than 27 occasions.
Also, Timo Boll is within distance of a reserving place in the US$1,000,000 Seamaster ITTF World Tour Grand Finals to be held later in the year in Astana, Kazakhstan. He has played in three ITTF World Tour tournaments this year; he needs to play in five to meet the basic criteria. Olomouc will be his fourth, undoubtedly later in the year he will be on duty on home soil in Magdeburg.
Currently he occupies fifth place on the Standings (575 points); success in Olomouc would all but seal an invitation to Astana.
Next in line to Timo Boll in the Olomouc order of merit is Kenta Matsudaira, the runner up last week in Bulgaria; by contrast to Timo Boll, he is seeking just his second ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of colleague, Masato Shiono.
In 2013, Masato Shiono enjoyed a golden year, he won in his native Japan when required to compete in the qualification stage, before later in the year succeeding in the Czech Republic. The one previous win for Kenta Matsudaira was last year in Austria when he overcame Brazil’s Hugo Calderano in the final.
Likewise Hugo Calderano will be in action in Olomouc; he is the no.9 seed and similar to Kenta Matsudaira, he has one ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title to his name. He won in 2013 on home turf in Santos.
Otherwise for the players who complete the top eight names, no ITTF Men’s Singles title has ever come their way and that has been very much the story of the ITTF World Tour Czech Open.
In 2012, the inaugural edition, Germany’s Christian Süss won his first and only such title; in 2014 it was the same for Portugal’s Marcos Freitas, as it was in 2015 for Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and last year for Yuto Muramatsu.
Runner up in Australia just over six weeks ago, Frenchman Simon Gauzy is the no.3 seed, he is followed by Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, Germany’s Ruwen Filus, Austria’s Stefan Fegerl and Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson. Emmanuel Lebesson, like Simon Gauzy from France, completes the top eight names.
Does a watershed moment await in 2017?