China vs world again at table tennis worlds men's singles

Updated: 2015-04-28 16:40


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SUZHOU - With the top four seeds playing in front of their home crowd, it is China versus the world again in the 2015 World Table Tennis Championships men's singles event, which starts here in east China's Suzhou on Tuesday.

World number one through four, China's Ma Long, Xu Xin, Zhang Jike and Fan Zhendong hold the table tennis world in their hands.

Ma needs to win this tournament more than anyone else. He has to translate his immense talent into results at a big tournament as he owns just one Olympic gold medal in the team event, just one doubles world championships title and one singles World Cup title.

Ma is on a 13-match winning streak in world-level events and is 43-2 since September 2014.

Xu is the 2014 Asian Games singles champion and also beat Fan 4-3 to win the final of the 2015 Asian Cup, he reached the world No. 1 in January 2013 and has been no lower than No. 2 since.

Zhang also has what it takes to win the title. There is no doubting his skill - he was the youngest player ever to win the Olympic, World Championships, World Cup Grand Slam - and he is renowned for his mental toughness in the big moments so he could be considered the favorite.

Zhang's most recent big tournament victory came at the 2014 World Cup where he beat Ma in the final - before kicking holes in the sponsor boards around the court in celebration and subsequently being fined his prize money - and at the 2015 World Team Cup he had four wins and one loss, to Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany.

The 18-year-old Fan announced his arrival to China's national team with a strong performance at the 2012 Chinese National Championships. He then went on to win the singles and men's doubles title at the 2014 edition, beating Ma in the singles final and the Ma and Zhang combination in the doubles final.

If there is to be a player to upset the Chinese players' march to the semifinals, then it could come from Jun Mizutani of Japan, but the 25-year-old would have to beat Zhang in the semifinal, something he has never done before at the highest level.

Other players who may pose challenge to the Chinese dominance will be German compatriots Ovtcharov and Timo Boll, Portugal's Marcos Freitas, and Chinese Taipei's Chuang Chih-Yuan.