by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Zhang Jike is the leading name amongst an eleven player Chinese male contingent, very much at the opposite end of the performance scale to his compatriots.
No other member of the group has ever won an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title, the nearest are Zhou Yu and Xu Chenhao; Zhou Yu has been three times a runner up, Xu Chenhao had to settle for second place in 2013 in Japan.
Otherwise the group is formed by players still in the junior ranks or having just recently left. Notably Niu Guankai and Xu Haidong were both on duty at the 2017 World Junior Championships. They appear on the entry list as do the names of Zhou Kai, Ma Te and Zhou Qihao; Zhu Linfeng, Zheng Peifeng and Zhao Zihao complete the entry. In the majority they are players who have proved themselves at junior level, now they have the chance to prove themselves on the senior scene.
Similar to Zhang Jike, all must compete in the qualification tournament, a situation that applies also in the Men’s Doubles event where Zhou Kai partners and Zhu Linfeng, whilst Zhou Qihao lines up alongside Zhou Yu in what looks a most formidable combination. Memorably at the Qoros 2015 World Championships Zhou Yu was the Men’s Doubles silver medallist in partnership with Fan Zhendong. Supple writs, outstanding player over the table, he excels in the art.
Meanwhile, local eyes very much focus on Wong Chun Ting. He is the top seed in the Men’s Singles event. Furthermore, he partners Ho Kwan Kit in the Men’s Doubles competition where they are the no.3 seeds, behind Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu, the runners up earlier this year in Germany. Japan’s Jin Ueda and Maharu Yoshimura are the no.2 seeds.
Likewise, the name of Lee Sangsu is prominent in the Men’s Singles event; he is the no.2 seed, ahead of Japan’s Kenta Matsudaira, Portugal’s Marcos Freitas and Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan. Egypt’s Omar Assar, Denmark’s Jonathan Groth and Germany’s Ruwen Filus complete the top eight names.
Korea Republic in evidence, it is the same on the Under 21 Men’s Singles order of merit, Lim Jonghoon heads the list, colleague Cho Seungmin is the no.4 seed; Japan’s Yuto Kizukuri and Germany’s Joe Seyfried are the players sandwiched in between.
However, all need to be aware two names that could well upset the seeding; Niu Guankai and Xu Haidong both appear on the listing.
Now can a qualifier win? It happened last week at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Thailand Open when China’s Xu Ruifeng won the Men’s Singles and Men’s Doubles gold finished in the hands of Germany’s Tobias Hippler and Kilian Ort.
It’s not out of the question in Hong Kong.