by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In the Kazakhstan capital city he will be making no less than his 18th appearance in the prestigious annual tournament; no player male or female can compare.
Even Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus who played in the very first in 1996 in Tianjin and will be on duty in Astana cannot compare; he will be on duty for the 16th time. The only other male player in doubles figures in terms of appearances and on duty in Astana is Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov; it will be the 12th time that he has competed.
Furthermore, the list of appearances is continuous; since making his debut in 2000 in Australia, he has been ever present.
Moreover, he is one of only four players on duty in Astana, who have won the Men’s Singles title at the Grand Finals, the others being Germany’s Timo Boll, China’s Xu Xin and Vladimir Samsonov.
Against the odds, Chuang Chih-Yuan won in Stockholm in 2002; it was a quite remarkable feat. Prior to the success, he had never won an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title; earlier in the year he had been the runner on three occasions. In Qatar he had been beaten in the final by Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive, in the Netherlands he had suffered in the title decider against China’s Wang Hao; in Japan he lost to Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece.
In Stockholm, he was to turn the tables; he beat all three of his conquerors. After recording a remarkable opening round success against China’s Kong Linghui, at the time the reigning Olympic champion (7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-6, 10-12, 9-11, 11-7), he beat Jean-Michel Saive (11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 12-10) and Wang Hao (8-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 8-11, 11-8) prior to securing the title at the expense of Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece. It was a match in which he won the first two games, before losing the next two, only to recover his poise to secure a seven games success (11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 10-12, 11-1, 7-11, 11-6).
“When Kreanga came back from two games to nil down, I started to think about the previous finals I had lost. Luckily in the fifth game I found my way again and after that I was not so nervous.” Chuang Chih-Yuan
A remarkable performance and also Chuang Chih-Yuan has enjoyed Men’s Doubles success at the Grand Finals; in 2008 in partnership with Wu Chih-Chi, he was the runner up.
However, Men’s Singles success at the Grand Finals without ever having won on the ITTF World Tour; no other player has ever achieved the feat. If it is to be matches this year in Kazakhstan, only two players are eligible, the mantle rests on the shoulders of the host nation’s Kirill Gerassimenko and on Frenchman, Simon Gauzy.