by Kabir Nagpal
Xu Xin has returned to the pinnacle of the ITTF men’s world ranking and by the tightest of margins – only 450 points ahead of compatriot Fan Zhendong – who held the top position in November.
Despite Fan winning the ITTF World Tour Platinum German and Austrian Open events, as well as last week’s Chengdu Airlines ITTF Men’s World Cup, Xu has reaped the rewards of gaining extra points on offer at November’s T2 Diamond Singapore event.
Xu Xin’s rise to no.1 explained
The ITTF World Ranking is calculated in terms of the best eight results for each player in the last calendar year, with the exception of events which occur bi-annually like the World Championships and Continental Championships. Meanwhile, there is the T2 Diamond series which is very important because, since these events are not included in the top 8 results, they offer extra points to the victor, who in this case happened to be Xu Xin!
So, while the ITTF World Tour definitely allows for improvement in rankings, they are a cumulative total of the athlete’s best 8 performances in the last calendar year. However, the significance of the T2 Diamond events is clear to see, as Xu Xin received 1000 extra points from T2 Diamond Singapore, which when added to his best 8 results of 2019 pushed his total beyond Fan Zhendong’s by that 450 point margin.
While Fan has won three major singles titles now in 2019 – the ITTF World Tour Platinum German and Austrian Open events, and the Chengdu Airlines ITTF Men’s World Cup – it’s also important to remember that Xu’s best 8 results were given a serious boost when he swept up three consecutive gold medals at this year’s ITTF World Tour Japan, Korea and Australian Opens.
Men’s Singles Top 10
This change has put Fan Zhendong back at no.2, where he is followed by compatriots Ma Long and Lin Gaoyuan, who themselves have interchanged places.
Neither Chinese has had the best of months, with ‘The Dragon’ himself suffering defeat to Tomokazu Harimoto at the Men’s World Cup. The Japanese remains in the no.5 spot, with no change from his November ranking. Despite losing in the final to Fan, Harimoto has certainly made a name for himself as one not to be taken lightly at the table.
It has been a fine month for table tennis’ top teenagers, as another young prodigy from Asia has made the most noticeable of progressions. Chinese Taipei’s 18 year old Lin Yun-Ju has moved from a previous best of no.10 to a career high of no.7 after beating the aforementioned Ma Long to a bronze medal finish at the Men’s World Cup!
Capping off the rest of the Top 10, there are slight interchanges as Liang Jingkun has dropped one spot to world no.8 and the Chinese is followed by Sweden’s Mattias Falck, who retains his no.9 spot. German legend Timo Boll suffers from Lin’s major move upwards, as he drops from no.8 to no.10.
Women’s Singles Top 10
Changes at the top of the order for the men, it is the same for the women, despite China’s world no.1 Chen Meng keeping things stable at the summit. There are however some major moves right below her:
China’s Sun Yingsha has climbed one place up to world no.2 after winning the T2 Diamond Singapore event and gaining – just like Xu Xin – an additional 1000 points to boost her ranking. Her teammates, Liu Shiwen and Zhu Yuling, have thus suffered a drop of one position each – as the World Champion and World Cup winner Liu now appears at world no.3 and Zhu drops to world no.5.
Japan’s Mima Ito is now in a Chinese sandwich – making the no.4 spot her own. 19-year-olds Sun Yingsha and Mima Ito have both made it to their highest ranking of their careers with the latest results. In particular for Sun, this is a quite meteoric rise after noting that her ranking in April 2019 was no.29.
Sun climbed to no.3 last month and Ito – except for August when she was at no.8 – has consistently held the no.7 spot, with her previous highest being no.5 in January 2018.
Wang Manyu has thus been shifted a spot down to world no.6 because of this shake-up, and so has the ‘Queen of Hearts’, Ding Ning (no.7). The final major move was made by Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, who broke into the Top 10 from no.11 to no.8.
Singapore’s Feng Tianwei has been in solid for of late, reaching the semi-finals of both the ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open and the Women’s World Cup; she stays on as world no.9 ahead of Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, who completes the Top 10 ahead of compatriot Miu Hirano.