by Wade Townsend
The math is simple. Dimitrij Ovtcharov just has to advance beyond the first round at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Astana and he will be ranked World No.1 come 2018.
If the unthinkable happens and the top seed loses in the first round, then the ball will be in Fan Zhendong’s court. But it won’t be easy. Fan will have to win the event to steal the spot. Anything less than gold and Dima is king of the world.
Ovtcharov has been more than impressive in 2017, picking up six titles. The German star has silverware from the Men’s World Cup, China Open, German Open, India Open, Bulgaria Open, and the Europe Top 16 Cup. The one blemish on his record is a defeat in the last 16 to Koki Niwa at the World Championships in Düsseldorf.
Meanwhile, Fan Zhendong has won just the single event, the ITTF Asian Championships. But he has consistently come close with four runner-up places to his name.
The difference between the pair could be that Ovtcharov has shown perfection under pressure. Seven times this year the German has been involved in a full distance match. Dima has come out on top on each and every occasion.
And while it’s not a foregone conclusion, it looks like history is about to repeat.
Almost seven years ago in January 2011, Timo Boll snatched the No.1 World Ranking from Ma Long. Boll then held the pole position for three months. This was the last time a member of the Chinese national team wasn’t the World No.1.
In 2018 Ma Long will relinquish the position as the world’s best and China’s unbroken streak will most likely come to an end at the hands of a German.
The Great Wall is about to fall.