by Ian Marshall, Editor
Vladimir Samsonov is the no.4 seed in the men’s singles event, Aleksandar Karakasevic must compete in the preliminary stages.
Moreover, Vladimir Samsonov is in form; at the recent CCB Europe Top 16 Cup in the Swiss city of Montreux, he came within a whisker of winning the men’s title. In the final against Dimitrij Ovtcharov, he held two match points in the deciding seventh game before experiencing defeat.
Watching the now 42 year old play in Montreux appeared little different than when half that age. Having celebrated his 21st birthday seven days before the 1997 World Championships commenced in Manchester, he experienced a similar fate but in a different manner to that witnessed in Montreux. He finished in runners up spot. He was beaten by the man who when in the mood was on a different planet to the rest of humanity, Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner was in the mood.
In Lisbon list the names to beat; those of Chinese players trip of the tongue; Liang Jingkun who won some two months ago in November at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Austrian Open is on duty, as are both Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Chuqin, finalists last month in Hungary.
Now turn the clock back to 1997 in Manchester and note the names Vladimir Samsonov beat at the latter stages to reach the final; the list included Chinese stars who were to become Olympic Games gold medallists and world champions. He accounted for Ma Lin, Wang Liqin, Ding Song and Kong Linghui, the reigning world champion at the time, to reserve his place in the title decider.
Equally note the performance of Aleksandar Karakasevic on that occasion; he caused a sensation in the fifth round of the men’s singles event; he beat China’s Liu Guoliang, at the time the reigning Olympic champion.
Now two decades later, the exquisite control both exercise of the table tennis ball is no different, in 1997 some of the greatest names the sport has ever known suffered at the hands of the European duo.
Lin Gaoyuan, Liang Jingkun and Wang Chqin beware!