by Kabir Nagpal
Having won the exact same award as individuals – in 2018 for Xu Xin and 2016 for Fan Zhendong – now together as a men’s doubles pair they gained the accolade once again.
It was no mean feat when you consider the nominees: Gaston Alto, Timo Boll and Christian Pletea. They were all involved in rallies that would have been worthy winners.
The piece of magic happened at this year’s ITTF World Tour Japan Open, when Xu and Fan faced Germany’s Qiu Dang and Benedikt Duda.
Starting with a basic return, the point pushed both Fan and Xu off the table and led them to quickly exchange positions before Xu threw the textbook out of the window. He whipped an innovative curved sliced return that Fan just somehow avoided. Qiu was on the receiving end, he was quite stunned, he hesitated, point to China.
In the history of the ITTF Star Awards since 2013, this point was one of the most watchable. It underlined the fact there is more than one way to play table tennis!
They are the first doubles pair to receive the award.