by Ian Marshall, Editor
Name two players who this year have excelled on the global scene and impressed beyond all others, Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang top the list.
At ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, Benedikt Duda was the runner up in Spain, Qiu Dang the winner in Portugal.
On the ITTF World Tour, required to qualify, in Germany in the opening round Benedikt Duda beat Sweden’s Mattias Falck before losing to China’s Zhao Zihao. Not be outdone, having overcome Austria’s Robert Gardos in the final preliminary round, Qiu Dang advanced to the main draw where China’s redoubtable Ma Long ended progress.
Similarly, in Hungary, again safely through the preliminary stages, Benedikt Duda beat Japan’s Koki Niwa and Panagiotis Gionis of Greece, prior to experiencing defeat at the hands of Tomokazu Harimoto. Likewise, Qiu Dang ousted Frenchman Simon Gauzy, before England’s Liam Pitchford ended progress; quite remarkable performances, the consistency of both players outstanding.
They are the players in form; trying to find form are their colleagues Patrick Franziska, Bastian Steger and Ricardo Walther.
Preliminary stage exits in Germany and Hungary
Bastian Steger, now approaching his 39th birthday, has been the loyal servant ever since gaining his place in the eventual bronze medal winning outfit at the 2006 World Team Championships in Bremen. Later in 2010 he was the men’s singles runner up at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Seoul, the winner in 2017 at the ITTF Challenge Series tournament in Slovenia.
However, this year in both Germany and Hungary, he did not progress beyond the qualification stage.
It is the same for Ricardo Walther, the men’s singles winner on the ITTF World Tour in 2014 in Croatia; like Bastian Steger, he did not reach the main draw in Germany or Hungary.
Find form of four months earlier
Now for Patrick Franziska, the quest is to find the form of four months ago. In October at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open he reached the quarter-final round, losing to Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik, most notably en route accounting for China’s Lin Gaoyuan.
Impressive on home soil, he was event more impressive on foreign shores some three months earlier; in July at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Australian Open, he beat China’s Fan Zhendong and Sweden’s Mattias Falck before departing by the narrowest of margins at the hands of China’s Xu Xin.
However, the start to the 2020 ITTF World Tour has been very different, facing Japanese opponents, surprise first round exits have been the outcome. In Germany, he lost to Mizuki Oikawa, in Hungary to Takuya Jin.
In Doha, in the men’s singles, Patrick Franziska, the no.11 seed; Benedikt Duda, Qiu Dang and Ricardo Walther must compete in the preliminary stage.
Meanwhile, in the men’s doubles Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang occupy the no.5 seeded spot; in the mixed, Patrick Franziska and Petrissa Solja reserve the no.7 seeded position.