by Ian Marshall, Editor
Ma Long is now just one short of the record set by colleague Zhang Yining who between 1998 in Italy and 2009 in Qatar won 29 ITTF World Tour women’s singles titles.
Furthermore, she also won women’s doubles events on 21 occasions; so that makes her a member of the 50 club; Ma Long has 22 men’s doubles titles to his name, having won with nine partners. The favourite ally is Xu Xin with whom he has won nine times, in addition he won on four occasions with Wang Hao, three times with Zhang Jike and once each with further colleagues in the guise of Chen Qi, Hao Shuai, Kong Linghui, Fan Zhendong and Wang Liqin.
In addition, of the 133 times when a Chinese player has stood on the top of an ITTF World Tour men’s doubles podium, Ma Long is one of only three who has succeeded with a partner from foreign shores. In 2013 in Chengdu he won liaison with Germany’s Timo Boll; the other occasions are Hou Yingchao and the Dominican Republic’s Lin Ju who in 2006 mesmerized all adversaries in St Petersburg with their defensive skills and Xu Xin who partnered Sweden’s Jens Lundqvist to success in 2013 in Stockholm.
A member of the three club, that is the number of members of the 50 club; if Ma Long can win the men’s singles title in Sapporo he will draw level with Zhang Yining in terms of singles titles but will go one ahead to 51 in terms of overall achievements.
However, to catch the one further member of the 50 club, Ma Long has some distance to go; the outright leader is Ma Lin.
The now retired Ma Lin during his illustrious career on the ITTF World Tour won 20 men’s singles titles and a staggering 39 men’s doubles titles. A total of 59 titles, nowadays we consider Xu Xin the doubles master but he is nowhere near Ma Lin; currently he is the owner of 25 such accolades and in Sapporo partnering Fan Zhendong he may well add to the collection. If he is to catch Ma Lin, he must keep playing for the next three years and not lose!
Nowadays, Ma Long is touted as arguably the greatest player ever but when he partnered Ma Lin who has claim to being the greatest doubles player the chemistry didn’t work; to the best of my knowledge on the ITTF World Tour they joined forces on one occasion. They were beaten in the final in the Korea Republic in 2008 by Wang Hao and Wang Liqin.
However, the goal for Ma Long is closer; it’s a tall order but the way he is playing he is eating titles for breakfast! In 2020 or more realistically 2021 could he become the first member of the 60 club?