by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Ricardo Walther is suffering from inflammation of the heel, the effect is that he cannot currently walk without pain; doctors have advised several days rest.
Thus playing in Astana is not possible for a pair that competed in no less than eight Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour tournaments, the combination of the attacking skills of Ricardo Walther and the defensive attributes of Ruwen Filus proving the nemesis of many an adversarial partnership.
Notably they were the runners up in both India and Austria; on both occasions Japanese pairings ended title hopes. In New Delhi, they were beaten by Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima, silver medallists at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships; later in the year in Linz, the top step of the podium was denied when losing to Koki Niwa and Jin Ueda.
Contrasting style, the replacement pairing is also one of contrasts; totally different generations and levels of experience.
Pang Xue Jie is 24 years old and has never appeared in a Men’s Doubles ITTF World Tour Final; Gao Ning is the antithesis, he is 35 years of age and has titles by the score.
On the ITTF World Tour between 2006 and 2012 he appeared in no less than 15 Men’s Doubles finals, all but one with Yang Zi; they were the runners up of ten occasions, the winners four times. In 2007 they won in India and Austria, in 2008 in Chile and the one further time again in 2009 in India.
Additionally with Yang Zi, at the Grand Finals, Gao Ning won in 2008 in Macao and 2010 in Seoul emerged the runner.
The one further partner for Gao Ning has been Li Hu. On the GAC Group 2012 ITTF World Tour, they won in Kuwait before succeeding in consecutive Grand Finals, in 2012 in Hangzhou and early in 2014 (the 2013 edition) when they won in Dubai.
Now can Gao Ning achieve at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, what has never been previously achieved?
China’s Ma Lin won with Chen Qi and Zhang Jike, Wang Liqin with Chen Qi and Yan Sen; no player has ever won with three different partners; a chance of for Gao Ning to rewrite the history books..