by Ian Marshall, Editor
It was a major opportunity to market the sport of table tennis; it is no different today, a fact four decades ago Roy Evans, the President of the International Table Tennis Federation at the time recognised.
“A major ITTF event, involving players from every continent, has been seen on television all over the world, projecting the highest level of our sport.” Roy Evans
Since those days much water has flowed under the bridge, great players have come and gone.
Later in 1982 Guo Yuehua was to win again, when the tournament returning to Hong Kong. He became the first of group of players who have won the event more than once; Ma being the most successful name. All from China Ma Wenge set the trend winning in 1989 in Nairobi and 1992 in Ho Chih Minh City; later Ma Long prevailed in 2012 in Liverpool and in 2015 in Halmstad.
Sandwiched in between is the most successful of all, Ma Lin, he succeeded in 2000 in Yangzhou, 2003 in Jiangyin, the following year in Xiaoshan, before once again being crowned champion in 2006 in Paris.
Four times the winner of the Men’s World Cup but never the winner of the men’s singles title at a World Championships; conversely his colleague, Wang Liqin was crowned World champion three times but never won the Men’s World Cup!
Equally, Ma Lin is one of only two players to have succeeded in consecutive years; the other is Wang Hao, also from China. He won in 2007 in Barcelona and in 2008 in Liège. It is the target set by those players which is in the sights of their modern day compatriot, Fan Zhendong, the winner last year in Paris, he is the top seed in Chengdu.
Emulate his colleagues, he will match their achievement of a successful title defence; also he will match Wang Hao in having won the title three times. In addition Wang Hao won in 2010 in Magdeburg, Fan Zhendong in 2016 in Saarbrucken.
Anyone match Ma Lin?
Likewise on duty in Chengdu, Ma Long can increase his total to three as can Germany’s Timo Boll who won on debut in 2002 in Jinan and in 2005 in Liège.
Now is there anyone who can match the four wins of Ma Lin? There is one, the only player on duty in Chengdu who played in the tournament last century.
Fresh faced, eager to prove himself, a somewhat disappointed young man having been the reserve the previous year, Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus made his debut in Nîmes in 1996, he finished in third place. Later he won in 1999 in Xiaolan, 2001 in Courmayeur and 2009 in Moscow.
Long odds to win this year, be positive! Turn the clock back to 1980 and the qualification for the inaugural Men’s World Cup; on Sunday 13th April, England’s John Hilton, at the time an insurance salesman, won the men’s singles title at European Championships at odds of 1000:1.
Vladimir Samsonov take heart!