Preview: Chinese star paddlers Ma and Ding eye triple triumphs at worlds

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-21 05:15:16|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BUDAPEST, April 20 (Xinhua) -- As the clock ticks into the final day before the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships, excitement and anticipation is on the rise, with all participating sides knowing their possible routes in the competition.

For Chinese star paddlers Ma Long and Ding Ning, the third straight world title awaits ahead, along with more challenges on their way forward.

Coming back from an eight-month absence to injury, Ma won the Qatar Open title and finished runner-up at the Asian Cup.

Having been listed the top seed in two pervious editions, Ma is No. 11 seed this time, meaning a possible early duel looms in for him.

Fortunately, Ma drew himself on No. 48 position at Saturday's ceremony, thus avoiding a head-to-head with teammates earlier than quarterfinals, where he is expected to face Lin Gaoyuan if everything goes smooth.

Ma said that featuring in World Championships following long-time injury has been a success, just hoping to perform to his level on this world stage.

Four out of five Chinese men's singles players are bundled in top half. Ma can expect a semifinal with current world No. 1 Fan Zhendong in a rematch of last edition's final. Another Chinese paddler Liang Jingkun can be Fan's potential opponent in round of 16.

Main threats for the Chinese team in top half include Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany, and Japanese duo of Koki Niwa and Jun Mizutani.

Xu Xin is left alone in bottom half, facing possible opponents like Liam Pitchford of England, South Korean Lee Sang-su, Japanese talent Tomokazu Harimoto and German veteran Timo Boll.

In the women's singles, fierce contention between China and the 2020 Olympic Games hosts Japan is well on track to the quarterfinal stage.

Ding, who returned to top position this January, was listed among top four seeds with teammates Chen Meng, Wang Manyu and Liu Shiwen, while three Japanese paddlers were among the fifth to eighth seeds, meaning that quarterfinal clashes between the two sides are unavoidable if these paddlers manage to make into last eight.

Three possible quarterfinal matches between Chinese and Japanese paddlers have loomed in, with Ding taking on Miu Hirano, Wang facing Mima Ito, and Chen being in direction against Kasumi Ishikawa. Ito can also expect an earlier duel against a Chinese player, the 18-year-old Sun Yingsha.

Mixed doubles has been given increasing significance by all teams since it was confirmed as one of five competition events at the Tokyo Olympics.

China dispatch Xu Xin/Liu Shiwen for the event at the worlds, along with combination of world top-ranked paddlers Fan Zhendong/Ding Ning. Fan and Ding will kick off their campaign from preliminary on the opening matchday.

Wang Chuqin, another Chinese talented player born in 2000, also has been included in the squad, playing men's doubles with Ma Long. The other Chinese pair in the event are Liang Jingkun/Lin Gaoyuan.

Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling will partner to play the women's doubles, along with Wang Manyu/Sun Yingsha.

Chinese table tennis chief Liu Guoliang said that the team's priority will be on Olympic events, namely men's and women's singles, and mixed doubles. As for the remaining two, the team will also strive for the titles.

With 15 months away from the Tokyo Olympic Games, the ITTF World Championships will undoubtedly draw worldwide attention upon the Hungarian capital, and can be somewhat a signal of each team's preparation for the Olympics.