by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Germany’s Timo Boll, the runner last year, won in 2006 in Guangzhou; in Shenzhen he is the no.2 seed behind the host nation’s Fan Zhendong, who succeeded in 2016 in Chengdu.
Success for Fan Zhendong; there has also been success for colleagues Xu Xin and Zhang Jike; Xu Xin won in 2012 in Shanghai, two years earlier Zhang Jike succeeded in Suzhou. At this year’s tournament, Xu Xin is the no.3 seed ahead of compatriot Lin Gaoyuan with Ma Long being the next in line. Zhang Jike is well down the order, if fact he is the 62nd highest listed player and therefore must compete in the qualification tournament.
Previous winners on duty but in the Men’s Doubles event there is only one previous partnership present that has emerged successful at an ITTF World Tour tournament in China; Ma Long and Xu Xin won in Chengdu in 2016.
In many eyes they start the favourites this year but they do not head the list; they are the no.3 seeds. Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting, the winners last week on home soil, occupy the top seeded position, followed by Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu. The combination of Germany’s Patrick Franziska and Denmark’s Jonathan Groth complete the top four pairs.
Possible repeat champions but one fact is certain; new Shenzhen champions will be crowned.
Shenzhen has hosted the ITTF World Tour China Open on three prior occasions; of those on duty this year, the player who has come closest to Men’s Singles gold is Ma Long. He was the runner up in 2011 beaten by Ma Lin. Prior to the success of Ma Lin, Wang Liqin and Wang Hao had shared the honours. Wang Liqin won in 2005, in 2007 Wang Hao reversed the decision.
Meanwhile in the Men’s Doubles event Ma Long won in partnership with Wang Hao in 2011, the latter having also succeeded with Ma Lin four years earlier. Chen Qi and Wang Liqin succeeded in 2005.
Always in Shenzhen, the Men’s Singles and Men’s Doubles winners have been from China; time to change?
Overall a total of 133 players will compete in the Men’s Singles event; of which 117 must play in the qualification tournament; the top 16 names receive direct entries to the tournament itself.