Tuesday, April 23, 2013
The Paris Stage is Set for Zhang Jike and Liu Shiwen
Name a European player a decade ago who had the potential to win the Men’s Singles title at the LIEBHERR World Championships in the Parisian suburb of Bercy and the most popular suggestion may well have been Germany’s Timo Boll.
It was not to be for the top seed and the man at the time listed at no.1 on the World Rankings, he was beaten China’s Qiu Yike in the second round; it was to be another Butterfly sponsored player who was to succeed.
Against all expectations, Werner Schlager emerged as the champion; now in 2013 in the very same venue, where the Austrian enjoyed his greatest hour, can the feat be repeated?
Nominate a European name and it is the same as in 2003, the major challenger is Timo Boll; undoubtedly Werner Schlager will strain every sinew but logic suggests at 40 years of age, his best days are over.
Ten years ago the top step of the medal podium belonged to Werner Schalger, in the same year a much younger man was also ascending the heights; the first ever ITTF Cadet Challenge was staged in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary, the young man who climbed to the top step of the podium was a certain Zhang Jike.
In Paris he will defend his title and it may well be a successful defence; simply the bigger the challenge, the more Zhang Jike revels in the situation. He may struggle in early rounds against lesser mortals but put him on the big stage and he is at home.
Ten years hence in 2023, interview table tennis players and ask them the name of their greatest ever win; Zhang Jike will be the most popular name but then examine the record of the most successful player of the era. It will be the same name; everybody will have beaten Zhang