by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Liège has twice been the host of the Liebherr Men’s World Cup; on both occasions Timo Boll reached the final, on both occasions the opponent in the title decider was China’s Wang Hao.
In 2005 he beat Wang Hao to seal the title; three years later in 2008 he had to settle for runners up spot.
The performance in 2005, I would suggest remains to this day the greatest ever in the history of the event, since China’s Guo Yuehua won at the inaugural edition in 1980 in Hong Kong.
One after another, Timo Boll beat the pride of China. Prior to overcoming Wang Hao in the final, he accounted for Wang Liqin in the quarter-finals and Ma Lin in the penultimate round. Equally in 2008, the list was impressive; in the round of the last eight he overcame Korea’s Ryu Seungmin, before ending the hopes of China’s Ma Long.
Outstanding performances but to some extent in both years he was given a second chance; now in 2017 there is no second chance.
A total of 16 players competed in 2005 and 2008; four groups in the initial phase, players finishing in first and second places in each group advanced to the quarter-finals. On both occasions Timo Boll finished in second place in his group; in 2005 he beat Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan and Australia’s William Henzell but sandwiched in between lost to Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus.
Three years later, he was beaten by Kalin Kreanga of Greece in his opening contest prior to overcoming Singapore’s Gao Ning and Nigeria’s Segun Toriola.
The situation in 2017 is very different; the total entry is 20 players as opposed to 16 players of bygone years. Players seeded no.9 to no.20 compete in the group stage, four groups, three players in each group, players finishing in first and second positions join the top eight seeded players in the main draw. The main draw of 16 players is conducted on the knock-out principle.
List at no.7 on the August Men’s World Rankings, the determining factor for seeding at Liebherr 2017 Men’s World Cup, Timo Boll will be a direct entry to the main draw.
Now that must be a relief for Timo Boll and German supporters; for the 36 year old German that’s the part of the draw when competing in Liège where he excels!
World champion: Ma Long (China)
Continental Cup (Winners): Quadri Aruna (Nigeria), Lin Gaoyuan (China), Gustavo Tsuboi (Brazil), Kanak Jha (United States), David Powell (Australia), Dimitrij Ovtcharov (Germany)
Continental Cup (Asia & Europe 2nd & 3rd Places): Lee Sangsu (Korea), Chen Chien-An (Chinese Taipei), Alexander Shibaev (Russia), Simon Gauzy (France)
Continental Cup (World Ranking): Jun Mizutani (Japan), Kou Lei (Ukraine), Timo Boll (Germany), Omar Assar (Egypt), Jeong Sangeun (Korea), Chuang Chih-Yuan (Chinese Taipei), Koki Niwa (Japan)
Host Nation: Cédric Nuytinck (Belgium)
Wild Card: Marcos Freitas (Portugal)
Note: participation of Ma Long depends on an ongoing ITTF disciplinary investigation