by Ian Marshall, Editor
Nobody on duty in Budapest has tried more to win the men’s singles title at a World Championships than Vladimir Samsonov.
In the modern era when proceedings have been held on a biennial basis, China’s Ma Lin made the effort nine times between 1997 in Manchester and 2013 in Paris and never succeeded to secure the precious title. Likewise, Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive couldn’t cross the finishing line. He made the attempt on no less than 17 occasions, starting in Gothenburg in 1983 and ending in Suzhou in 2015.
They are all members of the same club, all three reached the final and stumbled; Jean-Michel Saive in the year Vladimir Samsonov made his debut, Vladimir Samsonov himself in 1997 in Manchester, Ma Lin on three occasions in 1999 in Eindhoven followed by 2005 in Shanghai and 2007 in Zagreb.
Furthermore, there is one other factor that binds them together; all at some point in their illustrious career ascended to the top spot of the world rankings. In addition to Vladimir Samsonov; competing this year in Budapest, there are four further names on duty in the men’s singles event who have occupied the no.1 spot on the world rankings but have never been crowned world champion.
Germany’s Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov have both ascended to the top spot on the world rankings, as have China’s Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong but none as yet has been crowned men’s singles world champion.
However, have they not proved they are the best in the world on at least one occasion?
They all have one further factor in common, one in which they also share with Ma Lin. All have won the Men’s World Cup. Vladimir Samsonov in 1999 in Xiaolan, in 2001 in Courmayeur and in 2009 in Moscow; likewise Timo Boll succeeded in 2002 in Jinan and 2005 in Liège, Fan Zhendong in 2016 in Saarbrücken and last year in Paris. Meanwhile, Xu Xin prevailed in Verviers in 2013, Dimitrij Ovtcharov in 2018 in Liège.
In many sports, win the World Cup and you are the World Champion; it is not the situation in table tennis but does it not mean on that day you were the best in the world?
World no.1 in terms of success and in terms of ranking but never world champion. Can that for one member of the club change in Budapest?