With the 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup and 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals set to take place in the coming months, both Ma Long (31) and Ding Ning (29) have taken the decision to not participate in next week’s Austrian Open in Linz (12th – 17th November 2019).
For the reigning men’s World Champion, this comes after he missed out on the main stages of the same competition last year when he had to withdraw after the first round due to injury. For Ding, Linz is where she was crowned women’s World Cup winner for the second time back in 2014 and having reached the quarter-final of the World Tour event in 2018, she would have aimed to make more memories in Austria this year.
2019 as a whole has been quite a ride for both Ma and Ding, who have been involved year-long in enticing battles for glory and gold-medal events. For “The Dragon”, it has been a year where he won the World Championships in Budapest, back-to-back World Tour events in Qatar and China – breaking the all-time record for World Tour men’s singles titles in the process – and even finished with a silver medal at the Korea Open in Busan.
The current world no.4 additionally reached the semi-finals in Geelong at the Australian Open, losing to Wang Chuqin – the Youth Olympic Games Champion who idolises Ma himself. Ma also posted a silver medal finish at the ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup in Yokohoma, Japan – losing out against current & then world no.1 Fan Zhendong.
Meanwhile for the “Queen of Hearts”, 2019 has meant a year full of difficult matches against the youthful athletes coming to the fore in table tennis – especially the likes of Japanese duo Miu Hirano and Mima Ito, and China’s Sun Yingsha – all of whom seem intent on making their mark by battling the 2016 Olympic Games champion.
After reaching the semi-finals at the World Championships in Budapest, Ding went on to achieve the same at the Qatar Open. She then also had a very tough draw in getting two back-to-back silver medals at the Korea and Australian Opens – where she met her match in the aforementioned Sun Yingsha – who incidentally had lost to Ding at the Korea Open a week earlier!
It would not be prudent to forget Ding’s huge doubles win at the 2019 ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships with compatriot Zhu Yuling, after she lost out in the women’s singles semi-finals to – you guessed it – eventual champion Sun Yingsha.
More recently, Ding has been involved in the tremendous run of form that the Chinese women’s team has displayed in Tokyo at the ZEN-NOH 2019 ITTF Team World Cup, where the defending champions will battle it out for gold later today against the hosts Japan.
In a busy event schedule, the decision has been taken that both athletes will benefit from a short break in order to recharge their batteries. All table tennis fans look forward to watching them in action again later this year.