by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Why such a large number? The main reason is the name Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus appears in the preliminary stages; a first win in the inaugural year when in 1996 he succeeded in Italy, overall he has 27 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles to his credit and one Challenge Series.
Furthermore, when the tournament concludes, whatever fate he suffers, he will still be the outright leader; his nearest competitor is China’s Ma Long, the no.5 seed in Shenzhen, he has 25 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles to his name.
Next in line in the qualification tournament in terms of such success is the host nation’s Zhang Jike, he has won six times, including success in China in 2010. Does than number not underline the pain of sport?
He is way behind Vladimir Samsonov; yet Zhang Jike has seven World Championship titles to his name plus three gold medals and one silver at the Olympic Games. Never a World Champion title, no medals at an Olympic Games; what would Vladimir Samsonov give for just one Olympic bronze? Perhaps, 25 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles?
Vladimir Samsonov and Zhang Jike are the most illustrious names on Men’s Singles qualification duty.
They overshadow others who have on the ITTF World Tour won more than once. The names of Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura and Yuya Oshima appear, as do those of Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik, Hong Kong’s Jiang Tianyi, China’s Yan An and Frenchman Abdel-Kader Salifou.
Meanwhile, for those who have one such title, China’s Fang Bo and Hou Yingchao, alongside Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit, Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia and Germany’s Ricardo Walther all appear, as do those of Korea’s Cho Eonrae, Jang Woojin and Kim Donghyun. Likewise the name of Austria’s Daniel Habesohn is on the list; one which also includes Iran’s Nima Alamian and Noshad Alamiyan.
Similarly in the Women’s Singles qualification tournament, the total is relatively high; the number of ITTF World Tour titles won by those competing in the preliminary stages is 21 in number, add recent Challenge Series tournaments and it is 31 in total.
The most successful female player on first phase duty is Korea’s Jeon Jihee, she has four ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles titles to her name. Likewise with more than one win to their credit, Germany’s Han Ying, Poland’s Li Qian, China’s Wu Yang alongside Portugal’s Shao Jieni and Monaco’s Yang Xiaoxin all compete in the preliminary stage.
It is the same for Japan’s Miyu Maeda, Sakura Mori and Saki Shibata, as it is for Korea’s Choi Hyojoo and Singapore’s Yu Mengyu all have won on one occasion.
Now last week in Hong Kong, qualifiers in the guise of Japan’s Kazuhiro Yoshimura and Korea’s Cho Seungmin contested the Men’s Singles final; in Shenzhen can it happen again?
In the form of Vladimir Samsonov and Zhang Jike, the pedigree is present; it would be a delight to witness those two players in the final, with the greatest of respect, I don’t think it’s going to happen.