by Wade Townsend
In July 2017 the tennis world was marvelling at the evergreen Roger Federer, who at 36 years-old notched up his eighth Wimbledon title. But Federer is a spring chicken compared to the 41 year-old Vladimir Samsonov, who in the same month was turning back the years to claim yet another World Tour title.
In July Samsonov headed Down Under for the 2017 Australian Open, but from the get go didn’t rate himself as much of a shot for the gold medal. There were others in the draw more capable of winning the event than himself proclaimed the Belorussian. Was it modesty? Or was it the reality?
“Before the event I had a feeling I wasn’t in good form.” Vladimir Samsonov
But once the event got underway it was obvious his self assessment couldn’t have been further from the mark. Top seeds such as Jun Mizutani fell by the wayside while Vladi kept striding to the final. His opponent in the gold medal match couldn’t have been more of a contrast.
Frenchmen Simon Gauzy found himself in his first ever ITTF World Tour Final butting heads against a true legend of the sport. The fresh faced Gauzy came out with all cylinders firing. But experienced prevailed and the veteran won 4-1.
It seems as though age hasn’t caught up to Vladi just yet.
“Im 41 years-old and I think that it’s great that I can still compete!” Vladimir Samsonov
Competing is one thing. Winning events is a completely different ball game.
The gold medal gave Vladi his record making 27th title. The only player with close to that collection of silverware is Ma Long who has 24 titles to his name. But even if China’s dragon closes in on Samsonov’s record, he can never pass one historic milestone.
The title in Australia meant that the Belarussian became the first ever player to win an ITTF World Tour event on every continent.
Yet when it comes to being a great athlete, it’s not just finishing first, but how you win that matters. After the final it was clear why Vladi remains a fan favourite; posing for countless selfies with audience members, never once trying to escape the adoring fans. A true gentlemen of the sport.
2017 has reminded us that as long as the Belorussian takes the court, he will always be a threat to anyone standing at the other end and a contender for any title.
Check out the full year in review below and relive some of the best moments from table tennis in 2017.