20 Jan 2020

Very much the dominant force in world table tennis with superstar names in every direction, but over the course of the next decade the time will come for China to concentrate its efforts on finding the next challenger amongst its younger generation.

Perhaps the leading contender at this moment in time is Wang Chuqin, a young man carrying great potential but still the unfinished article.

by Simon Daish

The formation of an exciting rivalry

In a day and age where national associations across the globe are looking towards teenage prospects more and more, Wang Chuqin appears to be China’s answer to the likes of Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto and Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, two players who are beginning to ask questions of the world leaders.

Wang, while still technically in his teenage years, 19, is older than both Harimoto, 16, and Lin, 18 and so it’s only natural that those in charge of the Chinese national set up will be keen to see their player taking the challenge to and surpassing the Japanese and Chinese Taipei competitors.

Stable, assured, safe, these are all words which perhaps best summarise Wang’s philosophy in action. He is at his best when staying on the front foot close to the table, often dictating play with his exceptional ability to open up different angles from the backhand. For someone so young, Wang has clearly already learnt a thing or two in his relatively short, yet successful career.

Progress clear for all to see

It was on South American soil where Wang first started to make noise on the international scene with two impressive outings on the 2014 edition of the ITTF World Tour: claiming the Under 21 men’s singles runner up spot in Argentina, a then 14-year-old Wang also produced a noteworthy performance in Brazil with semi-final finishes at both Under 21 and senior level.

Fast forward to 2017 and Wang started to make real traction, backing up his under 18 gold at the China Junior and Cadet Open with further title successes at the highly prestigious Asian Junior and Cadet Championships and World Junior Championships.

Clearly ready for the next step Wang was rewarded with more opportunities to compete at the highest level and didn’t disappoint, helping China to gold medal finishes at the 2018 World Team Championships and 2018 Asian Games. Toward the latter stages of the year Wang celebrated further success at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, beating Tomokazu Harimoto to men’s singles gold and partnering Sun Yingsha to the mixed team title.

Continuing to show steady progress, Wang was amongst the headlines on a few occasions in 2019: runner up at the ITTF World Tour event in Budapest, Wang went on to replicate that result in Geelong before securing his first men’s singles trophy in Stockholm. Another special moment came at the 2019 World Championships as Wang and Ma Long became men’s doubles champions of the world – a day that will stay with him for the rest of his life!

Destined for greatness?

Still in the early stages of his journey and having already achieved so much, however, Wang can’t afford the same luxury of patience that many players from other countries can fall back on. Put simply, the bar has been set at a monstrously high level – Ma Long is World and Olympic champion, Fan Zhendong is Men’s World Cup and World Tour Grand Finals champion while Xu Xin spent five months at the summit of the world rankings in 2019.

Expectations are sky high and there’s every chance Wang could go on to fulfill his potential but there are still some issues to iron out including it would seem his discipline which has come into question recently. Wang is currently serving a threemonth suspension following an incident at the ITTF World Tour event in Linz, Austria last November which saw the Chinese teenager throw his racquet at the table in frustration, contravening the ethics of sport in the process.

There’s no doubt that Wang Chuqin has an exciting future ahead but it won’t be long before pressure begins to mount as China not only expects strong players but world beaters. Practically untouchable since the turn of the millennium, China will want to see its dominance extended throughout and beyond the next decade. Incredible young talents in the form of Tomokazu Harimoto and Lin Yun-Ju are looking to knock China of its perch. The task for Wang Chuqin is to prevent that from happening, but can he?

Wang Chuqin won his first ITTF World Tour men’s singles trophy last year in Sweden (Photo: Ireneusz Kanabrodzki)
Features Wang Chuqin