12 Dec 2018

Finishing the year at top of the Standings and then enjoying an opening round success at the Grand Finals; it is the norm rather than the exception but for a slow starter beware, there is no second chance.

Seeding as per the final order on the end of year order of merit arguably makes that scenario an increasingly possible fact; it may prove the same at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals which commence in Incheon on Thursday 13th December. However, in Guangzhou, in 2003 life was different.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

China’s Ma Lin had ended the year in top spot, ahead of colleague Wang Liqin and Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan; further down the order was Sweden’s Jens Lundqvist, he finished in 10th place but when taken into consideration the players who had met the minimum participation criteria, he was in fact two places higher.

In the opening round he beat Ma Lin (4-11, 13-11, 11-9, 12-10, 8-11, 11-9), before accounting for Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece (12-10, 8-11, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-9) to book his semi-final place where the journey came to an end. He was beaten by China’s Wang Hao, the eventual winner (11-5, 5-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-8).

A first round farewell for Ma Lin, in Tianjin in 1996, there was also a surprise first round exit for the player many regard as the greatest of them all, especially if you are Swedish.

In an age when matches were best of five games, each game to 21 points and the change of service after five points, Jan-Ove Waldner had qualified for the Grand Finals by finishing in third place on the Standings. He had ended the year behind Canada’s Johnny Huang and Austria’s Werner Schlager; notably Johnny Huang is the only player ever, not representing a national association from Asia or Europe, to head the list.

After establishing a two games to nil lead and seemingly en route to the second round, Jan-Ove Waldner was beaten by the host nation’s Xiong Ke (15-21, 16-21, 21-14, 21-19, 21-11).

The leading name on the 2018 Men’s Singles Standings is China’s Xu Xin, he has been known to be a slow starter; time and again we have seen him lose the opening game and recover. Might he be caught out in Incheon and suffer like Ma Lin?

World Tour 2018 Seamaster Grand Finals xu xin Jan-Ove Waldner Ma Lin Jens Lundqvist Xiong Ke

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Day 4 - Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals

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