by Kabir Nagpal
The equivalent in stature of a World Championships, the very best will ply their skills in at Aspire Dome.
Fan Zhendong, no.1 seed
What does a 343 day wait for a World Tour men’s singles title do for you?
Well, for Fan Zhendong, it led to a great end to 2019 after he won two World Tour titles back-to-back. The winner in Qatar in 2018, he suffered a a recent hiccup in Germany. He will want to return to winning ways immediately.
Xu Xin, no.2 seed
The essence of competition generally washes away in sport when there are runaway leaders at the top; that’s not the case in table tennis, with the world no.1 ranking been exchanged more than twice in the past four months!
The current world no.1 Xu Xin is going to be a triple threat as he competes in all three events – men’s singles, men’s doubles with Ma Long and mixed with Liu Shiwen. What’s more, he’s enjoyed success before Doha. He won in 2011, 2012 and 2014!
Ma Long, no.3 seed
Xu Xin’s doubles partner, Ma Long, the Dragon himself, is not a player short of success.
Leading the charts in Qatar, he is the most successful of all with wins in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019 – the last of which was a very tough year. After suffering a lengthy absence through injury, he won in Qatar before successfully defending his men’s singles title at the Liebherr 2020 World Championships.
Lin Gaoyuan, no.4 seed
Shortly behind the leading pack is their compatriot Lin Gaoyuan. He has appeared in six ITTF World Tour men’s singles finals, the record is parity, three times the winner, three times the runner up.
He has a point to prove, his name was not on the list published for the now postponed Hana Bank 2020 World Team Championships.
Tomokazu Harimoto, no.5 seed
Moving now to Japan’s prodigious son, Tomokazu Harimoto will look to build on his winning performance at the ITTF World Tour Hungary Open in Budapest last week.
Since 2017 Harimoto has won one ITTF World Tour men’s singles title each year. Will he break the pattern in Doha or must he wait till 2021?
Lin Yun-Ju, no.6 seed
The rising golden hand of Chinese Taipei, there are high expectations of Lin Yun-Ju. Living up to standards set is never easy but it certainly feels like the youngster is capable of handling the pressure.
Despite losing to Jun Mizutani in the second round at the German Open, he will battle it out for nothing less than gold.
Hugo Calderano, no.7 seed
The young man from Rio de Janeiro, Hugo Calderano has set new standards for Latin America.
Earlier this year he retained the Universal 2020 Pan Am Cup title; despite his early loss in Hungary to Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson. Lest we forget, in 2018 he beat both Timo Boll and Lin Guoyuan to reach the final in Doha, 2018. Will he be able to repeat that form?
Mattias Falck, no.8 seed
Sweden’s Mattias Falck has seen a severe rise in expectations since his silver-medal finish at Libeherr 2019 World Championships.
Having lost to Benedikt Duda in the first round at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open, is that medal weighing heavy on his shoulders?