by Ian Marshall, Editor
The reason he will be honing his claws; he enters the now well-established tournament in a not too dissimilar situation to last year.
In 2019, he proved the doubters wrong; he won the men’s singles title before the following month in Budapest proceeding to be crowned world champion for the third consecutive time.
Cause for question
Hindsight is wonderful thing but if we search our hearts did we really think that Ma Long, even though superhuman, could really win in Doha? He was the no.11 seed!
Not only was he not listed amongst the favourites, for some nine months he had either not enjoyed the best of results or injury had forced withdrawal. In June 2018 he won on the ITTF World Tour in China, he beat Fan Zhendong in the final but from that moment everything turned from bad to worse.
Later in the month in Japan he experienced a quarter-final exit at the hands of Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto; then in August in Bulgaria, he departed in the opening round, losing to England’s Liam Pitchford. Following Bulgaria, injury forced withdrawal from proceedings; in March he returned in Qatar, he returned in style, he set the record straight.
Now, one year later there is a similar pattern, accepted not as drastic but, since last June when retaining his title at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum China Open, once again in Shenzhen, the results have not been to Ma Long standards.
Most certainly the rest of humanity would be delighted but Ma Long has a major problem; it is called Ma Long.
On the ITTF World Tour, two weeks after his success in Shenzhen, he was beaten in the quarter-finals in Japan by Fan Zhendong, then in the Korea Republic he suffered in the final when facing Xu Xin, before in Australia, losing in the penultimate round to Wang Chuqin.
Likewise at the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals and earlier this year at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open in Magdeburg he concluded play the runner up; in the former beaten by Fan Zhendong, in the latter by Xu Xin.
Defeats against colleagues, they rarely if ever can be considered a true reflection of form, to call them upsets is not correct.
However, on Sunday 1st December at the Chengdu Airlines 2019 Men’s World Cup there was a surprise; for the first time ever when competing in the annual tournament, Ma Long did not gain a place on the podium.
Teenagers, ended ambitions; at the semi-final stage he was beaten by Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, in the third place match by Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju.
Beware, don’t annoy a legend, it’s a dangerous habit; a repeat of last year, more than likely, the “Dragon” is wounded, in Doha breathing fire!