by Kabir Nagpal
Xu Xin leads Fan Zhendong by a margin of 345 points, the month of February for the Chinese team being one of absence from the international arena. However, with the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open on the immediate horizon, he will have to step up in March if he is to hold on to the advantage.
The tug of war between the two elite Chinese athletes has been a feature of 2019. Fan reoccupied the no.1 position in November after winning on the ITTF World Tour in Germany. Previously he had held the top spot continuously from April 2018 to June 2019.
However, Xu Xin, the “Cloudwalker” has not been slacking during this time. After gaining the no.1 ranked spot in July 2019, he is aware the battle is long; it can be challenged easily by the quality that surrounds him.
Quality the subject, Ma Long – who is at world no. 3 – remains in the hunt for the summit. The calendar only just beginning, there is plenty more to come and one would be naïve to think he cannot crack the top two.
Lin Gaoyuan completes the Chinese quartet followed by Japan’s prodigious Tomokazu Harimoto now closer to breaking further ground after he won the 2020 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open in style, giving himself a 1,800 point-boost.
For the remaining athletes in the top 10, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju remains at no.6, followed by Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, Sweden’s Mattias Falck and China’s Liang Jingkun.
The only change in the past 28 days is the return of German legend Timo Boll into the top 10, he exchanges places with his German colleague Dimitrij Ovtcharov at no. 11.
Static state of affairs
Meanwhile, at the top of the women’s rankings, the situation is similar. Chen Meng stays comfortably at the helm after she claimed gold at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open in January, pushing her lead beyond everyone – for now.
The Chinese youth brigade leader Sun Yingsha is still about 2,000 points short of the world no.1 and will need a big push in the coming months to both maintain her position and to challenge Chen. The only leading woman to make a strong move – is also the only woman not from China in the top five – Mima Ito from Japan; her big win at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open, brought her a slight boost that takes her beyond the 15,000 point boundary.
China’s Wang Manyu, who upgraded to world no.4 last month stays there ahead of teammate Liu Shiwen at world no.5. The Queen of Hearts, Ding Ning, remains at no. 6, closely followed by Zhu Yuling.
In terms of the top 10, the major development in the rankings is owing to the performances of one athlete. Chinese Taipei’s leading lady, who only recently broke into the top ten rankings, Cheng I-Ching. She moves two spots from no.10 to reach no.8. Notably, her showings in Germany and Hungary displayed consistency; it is starting to reflect in her constant rise up the rankings.
The effect is that Singapore’s Feng Tianwei is now at no.9, Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa at no.10.