01 Jan 2020

Either one or the other, at the end of the year it was both. China’s Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong shared the top two positions on the men’s world rankings throughout the year; when the curtain closed on Sunday 15th December at the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Zhengzhou, they secured the men’s doubles title.

In addition when the final men’s singles standings were announced they were the players at the top of the order.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Overall were they not most worthy holders of those exalted positions? However, did we think that when the month of June began?

In March colleague Ma Long had returned to international duty, on his first appearance, since a six week lay-off, he won the men’s singles title on the ITTF World Tour in Qatar, in April he retained his crown at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, before on Tuesday 2nd June securing the men’s singles title on home soil at the ITTF World Tour China Open.

Impressive from Ma Long but from Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin, considering their pedigree, their results were arguably just a little below par. Accepted at the Lion 32nd ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup 2019, in early April, Fan Zhendong had beaten Ma Long in the final but on the ITTF World Tour the results may well have been acceptable for most mortals but not for Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin.


Semi-final exits had been the lot of Xu Xin in Hungary, Qatar and China; likewise Fan Zhendong had departed in the penultimate round in Hungary, the quarter-finals in China.

Equally, the Liebherr 2019 World Championships had proved disappointing. Xu Xin had bid farewell in round three, beaten by Frenchman Simon Gauzy. One round later Fan Zhendong had suffered against colleague, Liang Jingkun; the top two seeds, neither had reached the quarter-finals.

Incredible runs of success

Disappointment but to their great credit, both laid the past to rest; both enjoyed quite incredible runs of success.

Commencing on Sunday 16th June, when he won the men’s singles title on the ITTF World Tour in Japan, in a period of just over four weeks, Xu Xin added to the success in both the Korea Republic and Australia.

Later in the year in September he was to win the men’s singles title at the ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships in Yogyakarta and in November in Singapore the T2 Diamond.

Somewhat significantly, he ended the year with his record against the bright teenagers, Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto and Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, intact. He has never lost to either on the international scene; in July Fan Zhendong lost to Lin Yun-Ju at the T2 Diamond in Johor Bahru, Ma Long suffered against both in November at the Chengdu Airlines 2019 Men’s World Cup.


A quite incredible run of success for Xu Xin but he was upstaged by Fan Zhendong; Xu Xin left it almost six months to really shine, Fan Zhendong almost ten months!

Following the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, on the ITTF World Tour in the Korea Republic, Fan Zhendong departed in the quarter-finals, in Australia in round two, in Sweden in the penultimate round.

Things were not looking up for Fan Zhendong, question marks; then the renaissance, everything he touched turned to gold. On the ITTF World Tour he won in Germany and Austria; then at the Chengdu Airlines 2019 Men’s World Cup before claiming the men’s singles title at the Grand Finals.

More success

Additional to the Grand Finals, the duo won the men’s doubles titles in Japan, Korea Republic and Sweden. Meanwhile Xu Xin partnered Zhu Yuling to mixed doubles success in Japan, Sun Yingsha to gold in Germany, Liu Shiwen to the top prize in Hungary, Qatar and Sweden as well as at the World Championships and Grand Finals.

A slow start to the year for Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin but with the World Team Championships looming in March and then later in the year in July, the Olympic Games, don’t expect the same in 2020.

They will be out of the blocks faster than Usain Bolt.

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