Arguably the most epic final in living memory, that played at the 2017 World Table Tennis Championships in Dusseldorf, Ma Long (CHN) and Fan Zhendong (CHN) could meet again at the semi-final stage this year in Budapest.
The chance to see China’s two most successful male players in recent times crossing swords again at the final hurdle was ruled out during Saturday’s main draw, held in central Budapest, when the top 16 seeds in both Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles competitions learnt who could be standing in their way further down the line of the Liebherr 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships, held between 21 and 28 April.
Today’s draw completes the positioning of the 64 seeded players in the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles competitions, who will kick off their campaigns on Tuesday 23 April following two days of qualification rounds, which will determine the other 64 players to join in at the round of 128.
Men’s Singles Draw
The prospect of a semi-final between one of table tennis’ all-time greats, Ma Long, and the current World no. 1, Fan Zhendong, tops the list of a number of interesting and exciting match-ups, which could materialise over the course of the next eight days in the Hungarian capital.
Earlier in the round of 16, Ma Long, who is seeded 11th at the tournament following several months sidelined through injury before winning last month’s Qatar Open, could face another big-name player in 7th seed Hugo Calderano (BRA).
Prior to that, the reigning World Champion could well confront Vladimir Samsonov (BLR), the 18th seed and silver medallist in 1997 in Manchester. Furthermore, for Ma Long to reach the penultimate round, a quarter-final meeting with either 3rd seed Lin Gaoyuan (CHN) or 13th seed Jun Mizutani (JPN) may await.
For Fan Zhendong, there might be a round of 16 meeting with compatriot and 9th seed Liang Jingkun (CHN). While in the quarter-finals, the World no. 1 could well come across either 6th seed Koki Niwa (JPN) or 12th seed Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER). The German had lost to the Japanese back at the 2017 World Championships.
Meanwhile, the lower half of the Men’s Singles draw would appear to open up nicely for 15-year-old star talent, Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN). The 4th seed would not face a Chinese opponent until potentially the semi-final, where he could face 2nd seed Xu Xin. Prior to that, in the quarter-final, there is the very real possibility of a meeting between Harimoto and 5th seed Timo Boll (GER).
Women’s Singles Draw
In the Women’s Singles draw, top seed and defending champion, Ding Ning, could come up against 4th seed Liu Shiwen in the semi-finals, four years after they met at the 2015 World Championships final in Suzhou. 14th seed Bernadette Szocs (ROU) and 8th seed Miu Hirano (JPN) are among the potential quarter-final opponents of the World no. 1.
A competitive lower half of the draw could see 6th seed Mima Ito (JPN) meet 24th seed and rising star, Sun Yingsha (CHN) as early as the second round. Possibly lying in wait for either of them at the quarter-final stage would be 3rd seed Wang Manyu (CHN), who is fresh from her victory at the Qatar Open.
According to rankings, 5th seed Kasumi Ishikawa (JPN) would be in line to face 2nd seed Chen Meng (CHN) in the quarter-finals, with the winner of this tie most likely going toe to toe with one of Wang Manyu, Mima Ito or Sun Yingsha in the semi-finals.
Now let the show begin!
The first matches of the Liebherr 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships will take place tomorrow from 10.00 GMT+2, with qualification rounds set to get under way in the Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles competitions.
Qualification rounds in the Men’s and Women’s Doubles competitions will continue on Monday, before the main knockout rounds kick off in earnest on Tuesday 23 April.
With as many as eight tables streamed live from the Hungexpo in Budapest, make sure to stay tuned on itTV to watch all the action!