by Wade Townsend
With the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals just around the corner the race to enter the new year as the World No.1 is heating up.
The battle for the top spot is between Fan Zhendong and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, with both in the running to see in the new year as world’s best player.
Ovtcharov has been running hot this year, meaning the lowest ranking he can have come January is No.2. In 2017 Dima has won the Men’s World Cup, China Open, German Open, India Open, Bulgaria Open, and the Europe Top 16 Cup. Not too shabby.
If Ovtcharov can perform at the World Tour Finals, it will be the first time in seven years that the coveted ranking won’t belong to an athlete from China. The last time was when Timo Boll took pole position from Ma Long back in January 2011. He was able to hold the top spot for three consecutive months.
Fan meanwhile has just one title to his name in 2017, and that’s the ITTF-Asian Championships. But seeing as he has been stuck at second place on the podium for three events this year, the top ranking is in his reach.
Boll himself is out of the running to be king of the world, but he has a shot to be No.2. This means there is a reasonable possibility that the two highest ranked players could soon be German, showing the current shift in the status quo.
Koki Niwa is a long shot to be No.3 after the World Tour Grand Finals. He has six quarterfinals and a semi-final appearance to his name, tallying up to a respectful total. But he is going to need a big performance if he is to take the ranking from the likes of Xu Xin and Timo Boll.
Meanwhile, Ma Long will be looking at starting off 2018 at No.5. The current World Champion has three titles to his name this year, but has only competed in six events and failed to pass the last 16 on two occasions.
Who do you think will be the number one player in the world come January 2018?